Dr. David Ferrucci, IBM Fellow

Earlier this year, the television game show Jeopardy! received a special guest competitor. So special, in fact, that a new set of shows were filmed to both showcase and test this contestant’s abilities. Going by the name of Watson, the new player fared well in “his” initial outing, winning two out of three episodes and showing an ability to navigate the puns and mind games that help make Jeopardy! such a challenge, even for clever humans.


Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the a new class of computer system, one that capitalizes on breakthrough in the scientific field of Question and Answering. To answer questions on the show, Watson had to analyze clues that often involved subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and complexities that suit the abilities of humans, not computers. And it hard to accomplish these concurrent tasks nearly instantly, in real-time, to beat the humans to the buzzer.

Watson triumphed on television, but the truly important accomplishments will likely be behind the scenes as the system is adapted to complex, but highly human, tasks in the areas of health care and finance.

In recognition of their accomplishment in Watson, the editors of R&D Magazine have honored Dr. David Ferrucci, research staff member, Watson team leader, and IBM Fellow, and the members of IBM Research’s DeepQA Team with their highest individual innovation award, the Innovator of the Year.


The Power7 servers that form the backbone of IBM's Watson.

IBM Watson Research Team

IBM’s Watson