An IBM-made machine designed to win debates has lost out to human champion debater Harish Natarajan, in a heated competition of man versus artificial intelligence in San Francisco.

The tech firm's Project Debater is said to be the world's first AI system that debate humans on complex topics. Their goal is to build a system that helps people make evidence-based decisions when the answers aren’t black-and-white.

They were both given 15 minutes to prepare for the debate on subsidised pre-schools.

In this time the machine digested a library of texts, to construct a well-structured speech on the given topic. The contestants gave opening statements, a rebuttal and a 2-minute summary.

Before the debate, 79% of the audience showed support for subsidising pre-schools, which the machine argued for.

But, once it was finished, the number dropped to 62%, which meant Natarajan was declared the winner.

Still, 58% of the audience said they felt the machine better enriched their knowledge about the issue, compared to Natarajan's arguments.

Eventually, Project Debater will help people reason by providing compelling, evidence-based arguments and limiting the influence of emotion, bias, or ambiguity.

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