Supercomputer Watson the brainchild of IBM, Watson beat its human competition on the American general knowledge quiz show, Jeopardy, and is now set expand its horizons as its creators are currently working to make the computer "think" for itself.
As reported by Fortune, Eric Brown, the research scientist who created the Jeopardy champ, has been tasked with teaching the computer to carry on natural conversation — the true test of a machine's intelligence. But Brown's biggest roadblock so far has been trying to make Watson understand subtlety, especially slang.
"As humans, we don't realise just how ambiguous our communication is," Brown told the magazine.
Without always containing ourselves to the right situation, it's easier for people to know when to call someone a "hot mess" and when to hold their tongue. But Watson, which picked up some nasty habits from Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia, can't distinguish between polite language and profanity. In tests, Fortune said, it even used the word "bullshit" to answer a researcher's question.
Since Watson was tapped last year to be turned into a business-savvy smartphone-sized personal assistant, a la Apple's Siri, it's probably best that the über-computer avoid cursing out executives. So, to avoid embarrassment for the computer and IBM, Brown and his 35-person team were forced to develop a filter that would keep Watson from swearing.
Now four-letter-word-free, Brown is training his computer for use as a diagnostic tool for hospitals.
Following its broadcast debut in February 2011, another obvious gaffe found was the computer's inability to recognise when an answer had already been given. On the other hand, the super-machine was a real champ when it came to questions about song lyrics or historical facts. More nuanced questions, though, left it lagging behind the human competitors.