As much as we love our Google homepage
, computer search remains a pretty rudimentary affair. You punch in keywords and you get only indirect answers in the form of relevant web results. IBM doesn't seem to be too happy with this situation and has been working for the past three years on perfecting its Watson supercomputer
: an array of server racks that's been endowed with linguistic algorithms allowing it to not only recognize oddly phrased or implicative questions, but to answer them in kind, with direct and accurate responses. Stuffed with encyclopedic knowledge of the world around it, it answers on the basis of information stored within its data banks, though obviously you won't be able to tap into it any time soon for help with your homework. The latest word is that Watson's lab tests have impressed the producers of Jeopardy!
enough to have the bot participate in a televised episode of the show. That could happen as early as this fall, which fits right in line with our scheduled doom at robots' hands by the end of 2012. Ah well, might as well get our popcorn and enjoy the show.