longacre writes "I.B.M. plans to announce Monday that it is in the final stages of completing a computer program to compete against human 'Jeopardy!' contestants. If the program beats the humans, the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward. ... The team is aiming not at a true thinking machine but at a new class of software that can 'understand' human questions and respond to them correctly. Such a program would have enormous economic implications. ... The proposed contest is an effort by I.B.M. to prove that its researchers can make significant technical progress by picking "grand challenges" like its early chess foray. The new bid is based on three years of work by a team that has grown to 20 experts in fields like natural language processing, machine learning and information retrieval. ... Under the rules of the match that the company has negotiated with the 'Jeopardy!' producers, the computer will not have to emulate all human qualities. It will receive questions as electronic text. The human contestants will both see the text of each question and hear it spoken by the show's host, Alex Trebek. ... Mr. Friedman added that they were also thinking about whom the human contestants should be and were considering inviting Ken Jennings, the 'Jeopardy!' contestant who won 74 consecutive times and collected $2.52 million in 2004."