IBM Invents Jeopardy-Playing Computer

IBM has created a supercomputer that plays the TV game show Jeopardy. In English. And yes, it buzzes in. We can also presume that "Watson," our new Jeopardy overload, phrases its answers in the form of a question -- every time, without fail. And it does all this without being connected to the internet -- Watson stores all its answers in an offline database. So are we doomed? Is Jeopardy now going the way of chess, a game where even the best humans can be beaten by a computer? The short answer: not yet.

Network World has a preview of the Watson system entitled IBM's Jeopardy-playing machine can now beat human contestants. But IBM is being very cagey about which humans, and how often. Here's a snippet:

IBM's Jeopardy-playing supercomputer is now capable of beating human Jeopardy contestants on a regular basis, but has a ways to go before it takes on the likes of 74-time champion Ken Jennings.

IBM announced plans to build a computer that can win on Jeopardy last April, and expects to stage a public tournament involving human players and the machine within the next year or so.

The question-answering system, nicknamed "Watson", is already doing trial runs against people who have actually appeared on the Alex Trebek-hosted Jeopardy. Watson's competition includes people who qualified for the show but lost, people who appeared and won once, and people who appeared and won twice.

Watson is "working its way up through the ranks," says David Ferrucci, leader of the project team. "We win some, we lose some. Overall, we're quite competitive but there's a ways to go to play the top of the top."

So how far is "a ways to go?" Apparently IBM reps won't specify, so I'm willing to bet their machine needs a lot of work. And I'll just go on record now saying that if Watson beats Ken Jennings (74 times) I'll eat my hat. Or a hat, anyway. A small, edible hat is what I'll eat.

AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively

Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

New Peanut Allergy Patch Could Be Coming to Pharmacies This Year

About 6 million people in the U.S. and Europe have severe peanut allergies, including more than 2 million children. Now, French biotechnology company DBV Technologies SA has secured an FDA review for its peanut allergy patch, Bloomberg reports.

If approved, the company aims to start selling the Viaskin patch to children afflicted with peanut allergies in the second half of 2018. The FDA's decision comes in spite of the patch's disappointing study results last year, which found the product to be less effective than DBV hoped (though it did receive high marks for safety). The FDA has also granted Viaskin breakthrough-therapy and fast-track designations, which means a faster review process.

DBV's potentially life-saving product is a small disc that is placed on the arm or between the shoulder blades. It works like a vaccine, exposing the wearer's immune system to micro-doses of peanut protein to increase tolerance. It's intended to reduce the chances of having a severe allergic reaction to accidental exposure.

The patch might have competition: Aimmune Therapeutics Inc., which specializes in food allergy treatments, and the drug company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. are working together to develop a cure for peanut allergies.

[h/t Bloomberg]


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