Each week, we spotlight a cool innovation recommended by some of the industry's top tech writers. This week's pick is an AI that can argue.

IBM has created an artificially intelligent system that "can 'debate' with humans," said Cade Metz and Steve Lohr at The New York Times. Debater draws from a library of hundreds of millions of newspaper and academic-journal articles to form its responses, and can spar with a human debater on about 100 topics so far. At a recent unveiling event in San Fran­cisco, Debater argued in favor of government subsidies for space ex­plor­a­tion, with each side offering a four-minute introductory speech, a four-minute rebuttal to the other's arguments, and a two-minute closing statement.

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Being able to understand language naturally as humans speak it has proved to be a "complex and difficult task," and the project's leaders estimate the system can have a "meaningful" debate on its 100 topics about 40 percent of the time. The machine identifies relevant clauses in speech and then combines them into a reasonably coherent thought.