That would be IBM Research, for millions of dollars (I suspect). I’ve known about the Jeopardy project for a while from colleagues at IBM, and I’m glad I can finally talk about it publicly, now that it’s been reported in the New York Times.
It’s a great challenge, and I hope IBM can rally around it the way it did for chess. But I’d love to see information retrieval researchers consider a related problem–namely, looking at the results for a query and trying to reverse engineer the query from that set (i.e., without cheating and looking at the query). In order words, I want search engines to do what we as humans do naturally. When I’m not sure I understand you, I repeat back what I think you said, in words I’m sure I understand and that I believe you’ll understand too. It’s a great way to clarify misunderstandings and to make sure we end up on the same page.
This clarification dialogue is a key part of the HCIR vision: establishing shared understanding between the user and the system. And it bears a striking resemblance to the game of Jeopardy. When a user receives results in response to a query, those results should feel like an easy Jeopardy “answer”, for which the “question” jumps out as being compatible with the user’s information need. If that is not the case, then something has broken down in the communication, and the system should work with the user to resolve the breakdown.
I realize that HCIR isn’t quite as sexy as question answering (or is this answer questioning?) and certainly doesn’t have its own household-name game show. Then again, I never imagined that prospect theory and the prisoner’s dilemma would get their own game shows. A researcher can hope!