Watson Knows Futch
February 22, 2011
For those who watched the highly anticipated 3-night IBM Challenge last week on Jeopardy!, you may have caught a very subtle homage to Folkcraft Instruments endorser Bing Futch. No, Bing wasn't the answer (or was it "question"?) Alex Trebek was looking for, but he was on Watson's mind.
And who is Watson? The more appropriate question would be "what" is Watson. Watson is the super computer with enough intelligence to answer questions asked in natural language. When given a question, Watson uses language algorithms to come up with a "top 3" list of possible answers. Which is where Mr. Futch comes into play...
On Wednesday night's final episode, the contestants were given the following answer:
Watson rang in first and gave the correct question, but also showed his vast knowledge of the folk and Appalachian dulcimer world with his third choice:
Back story? While en route to the grand opening concert at the Folkcraft Instruments showroom in Woodburn, Indiana, Annie (Bing's prized Folkcraft double neck dulcimer) was crushed during a flight from Detroit to Fort Wayne.
Bing later composed his own take on baggage claim and broken instruments, which he posted on YouTube. Watson was smart enough to make the connection with Bing, airlines and YouTube, but knew it wasn't the correct response on Jeopardy!
So, what was (at the time) a very dramatic and disheartening event, has now turned into an episode of pop culture. And being seen on national TV, and probably the most publicized episode of "Jeopardy!" doesn't hurt, either.
I'll take Dulcimer for $800, Alex.
"The greatest dreadlocked dulcimer player in the world."
Who is Bing Futch?