Film & TV

Watson, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Other Robots on Television

IBM's Jeopardy! playing super computer Watson has had us glued to the TV screen the past few evenings. We are drawn out of curiosity: we wanted to see if human contestants can beat a computer and if this is what finally pushes Jeopardy past the Wheel of Fortune in the ratings. But mostly, we were curious to find out if this is the first step in humanity's enslavement to computers.

However, IBM and Jeopardy are incorrect in their assertion that this is the first time humans and computers have duked it out on a game show stage. In fact, our crack research team revealed a proud tradition of tech companies testing their products on various television competitions. Read on for a short history of televised man vs. the machine.

5. Singled Out

IBM's first foray into featuring computers on game show competition was MTV's mid-90s dating show. Hoping to create an android with enough artificial intelligence to seduce a human being, IBM submitted its computer, named Rocky, to the competition. Rocky's ability to properly engage in innuendo filled banter mixed with its replication of a human males' rock hard abs put him at the top of the pack in the quest for the bachelorette's (a co-ed from Rutgers University named Cathy) heart.

Though Rocky encountered a roadblock when a malfunction resulted in Singled Out co-host Chris Hardwick to lose his right pinky, he would eventually win the competition and Cathy's heart. The couple was wed in 1997 and resided in Montauk, New York until 2000 when Cathy filed for divorce due to irreconcilable differences.

4. Last Comic Standing

In the fall of 2006, NBC contacted Lockheed Martin in the hopes of developing the first computer comedian to revive the ratings-challenged reality competition. Lockheed Martin's result, a super computer with the stage name A.N.T.O.I.N.E. was an immediate success. A.N.T.O.I.N.E.'s mathematical algorithms were able to compute a mind-boggling 307 edgy observation-based jokes a minute. T

hough considered the odds on favorite with his insight on how white people dance in the club, A.N.T.O.I.N.E. was disqualified from the competition after an altercation with a heckler trigged the super computer to go on a very detailed and hateful 45-minute screed aimed at the Asian American community.

3. The $25,000 Pyramid

One of the earliest experiments with featuring computing technologies on game shows, Japanese corporations Casio and Toyota teamed up to create a simple word association computing program to be featured on the classic '70s show.

Though rudimentary, the program was able to pick up on clues fed to it by it's celebrity partner Elliott Gould. However, Toyota's desire to have the computer program also tie it's answers into their line of motor vehicles proved it's downfall when Gould stormed off set during the bonus round after the computer program uttered 'Toyota Corolla' for the 50th time.

2. Fear Factor

Curious to see if a computer could successfully replicate human emotions as varied as shame and fear, Apple tweaked their mega-processor for over three years before approaching the producers of NBC's controversy laden reality show in 2003. The mega-processor competed furiously throughout the program's first rounds, effortlessly base jumping off of Chicago's John Hancock building and consuming a rancid pair of Buffalo testicles faster than any of the other contestants.

The Apple programmers feared that they might have failed in their quest to replicate human emotions until the mega-processor quit the competition upon coming to the realization that it was being filmed spending time with host Joe Rogan.

1. The View

While not a game show, our researchers felt it would be a glaring oversight not include the technological marvel featured on the ABC daytime chat show. Tasked by the Walt Disney company in 2002 to create a lifelike Android to mindlessly banter with the other panelists and debate social issues emphatically but with very little insight, Intel successfully created a computerized host that would successfully fool The View's target audience of bored housewives and alcoholics into believing they were witnessing human interaction. The android remains on the show to this day under it's assumed human alias, Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

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Drew Spears