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Watson is reminiscent of IBM’s famous Deep Blue computer, which defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. But while chess is well-defined and mathematical, “Jeopardy!” presents a more open-ended challenge.

Winning at “Jeopardy!” is not the main prize, IBM says. The technology could mean speedier diagnosing of medical conditions and researching of legal case law, for example.

“This could be something important,” said “Jeopardy!” executive producer Harry Friedman, “and we want to be a part of it.”

Each contestant will have a podium, just as on normal “Jeopardy!” shows hosted by Alex Trebek. But given the size of the servers, Watson will be represented by an IBM Smart Planet icon on an LCD screen that fluctuates to reflect its processes.

And just as humans have been doing for 47 years on the game show, Watson has learned to come up with an answer in the form of a question.