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Study up, puny human!

A screenshot of IBM's Watson (middle) competing against Ken Jennings (left) and Brad Rutter (right) on Jeopardy!

IBM's Watson, the computing system that famously competed on Jeopardy!in February 2011, will be attending the supercomputing conference SC11 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, November 12-18, the conference organisers announced last week.

Attendees  at the conference will have the chance to test their knowledge in a battle of the wits against Watson - he'll be waiting on the 6th floor for you.

It doesn't take any super skills to know that the odds do not look great for even a lucky punter: Watson represents a significant advance in a computer's ability to understand context in human language, and in the Jeopardy! special he listened and buzzed in with answers, beating champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter - though not without a number of errors. (Watch some highlights on YouTube here.)

According to SC11 press release, those who choose to compete against the machine will be able to see the probabilities Watson calculated in formulating answers. And, just as in the television version, contestants will be able to choose a question category and dollar amount, though there will be no host, and contestants will be on their honor for scoring.

That's Dr. Watson, to you

In fact, it's not just for the SC11 appearance that Watson has been receiving a lot of media attention lately. The US medial insurance company WellPoint announced a few weeks ago that they would begin using Watson to help diagnose and treat patients.

WellPoint said Watson's data-crunching - which IBM boasts is 200 million pages in under 3 seconds - will only be used to suggest treatment options and diagnoses to doctors, as part of a broader push towards health informatics.

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