Turing award goes to ‘machine learning’ expert

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Harvard University professor has been awarded a top technology prize for research that has paved the way for computers that more closely mimic how humans think, including the one that won a “Jeopardy!” tournament that aired last month.

The Association for Computing Machinery says it’s awarding Leslie Valiant the A.M. Turing Award for 2010. The $250,000 award is considered the Nobel Prize of computing.

Some of Valiant’s biggest contributions concern the mathematical foundations of computer learning, an area of study that has led to breakthroughs such as IBM Corp.’s Watson, the machine built to play “Jeopardy!” The computer breezed past two of the game show’s top winners in a display of how far computer scientists have come in programming computers to understand the subtleties of human language.

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