Victorious on Jeopardy!, Watson Heads to Medical School

John C. Hayes


April 08, 2011

In This Article

Watson: Supercomputer and Medical Wizard

Fresh from its Jeopardy! victories, Watson -- IBM's new supercomputer -- heads off to medical school to master a set of medical information and processes far more complex than those required to win a game show contest.

On Jeopardy! the knowledge that Watson needed to win was housed in 8 refrigerator-sized boxes managed by 3000 core processors. To tackle medicine, however, Watson's processors must handle a data sweep that is likely to include electronic medical records, medical databases, journals, textbooks, clinical cases, and even blogs accessed via the Internet. In contrast to the simple answers supplied on Jeopardy!, the medical Watson will need to generate hypotheses from incomplete or incorrect data for clinical problems that may not have a single correct answer. That, as much as anything else, distinguishes the Jeopardy! challenge from the challenge of turning Watson into a medical whiz.

Engineers for IBM have already found that by pointing Watson to high-level medical textbooks, the machine can answer many of the questions that come up in common patient encounters, said Herbert Chase, MD, Professor of Clinical Medicine in Biomedical Informatics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY.


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