Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

NOVA: Smartest Machine On Earth

Airs Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Credit: Courtesy of IBM

Above: "Jeopardy!" panel at IBM's Watson Research Center: Celeste, Watson and Doug.

What's so special about human intelligence and will scientists ever build a computer that rivals the flexibility and power of a human brain? In "Smartest Machine On Earth," NOVA takes viewers inside an IBM lab where a crack team has been working for nearly three years to perfect a machine that can answer any question.

The scientists hope their machine will be able to beat expert contestants in one of the USA's most challenging TV quiz shows -- "Jeopardy!," which has entertained viewers for over four decades.

NOVA presents the exclusive inside story of how the IBM team developed the world's smartest computer from scratch. Now they're racing to finish it for a special "Jeopardy!" airdate in February 2011.

They've built an exact replica of the studio at its research lab near New York and invited past champions to compete against the machine, a big black box code -- named Watson after IBM's founder, Thomas J. Watson. But will Watson be able to beat out its human competition?

NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter. IBM Watson is on Facebook, and you can follow @IBMWatson on Twitter.

Preview: NOVA: Smartest Machine On Earth

NOVA investigates the world of artificial intelligence and profiles the computer that could be the “Smartest Machine on Earth.” Known as “Watson,” this IBM supercomputer is so advanced it’s pursuing the first-of-its-kind challenge competing against “Jeopardy!” champions to prove its uncanny ability to mimic the human thought process.

IBM Watson Why Jeopardy?

In 2007 IBM Research began creating Watson, a data analytics and natural language processing computer, with the goal to have Watson compete on Jeopardy, a perfect testing platform. Visit for more information.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.