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IBM’s Watson Has Turned Chef and Launched a Cooking App

IBM’s Watson Has Turned Chef and Launched a Cooking App



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Check out the tamarind cabbage slaw that Fast Company made from Watson's recipe suggestion.

Watson, the artificial intelligence created by IBM, has added more to his resume than just beating contestants on Jeopardy. Watson is now a master chef after “learning” thousands of recipes from Bon Appétit, and creating endless unique recipes via its new Chef Watson smartphone app. The tecnology originally premiered at this year's SXSW festival. Watson, to demonstrate its recently-acquired cooking prowess, has also come out with a BBQ sauce, specifically a Bengali Butternut BBQ Sauce made with squash, white wine, dates, Thai chilies, and tamarind. Most of almost-endless recipes offered on the Chef Watson’s app are unique combinations of flavors that make you go, “huh, I never thought about that,” like a Spanish paella mixed with an Indian curry.

“We remix recipes, substitute things, do all kinds of other modifications and generate millions of new ideas for recipes," Lav Varshney, a computer scientist at IBM told NPR. "The second step is to take those millions of ideas and find the best ones. To do that we try to predict what humans will find flavorful, based on some basic ideas from chemistry and psychology."

So how does the app work? Chef Watson asks you for ingredients you would like to use, the type of dish you would like to make (chowder? Sandwich? Something grilled?), and the styles you would like to try (Italian? Asian Fusion? Provencal?). Then Watson will pull up a list of 100 recipes for you, listed in order from “classic” to “experimental” with step-by-step instructions.

For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi


Sony AI launches the Gastronomy Flagship Project to apply AI to cooking

Yes, the major public clouds offer a lot. But what you may not know are the limitations, and how open clouds make the difference.

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Sony launched Sony AI in April to handle AI R&D with a focus on gaming, imaging, sensing, and more. The organization has offices in Japan, the U.S., and Europe and works in collaboration with Sony’s other business units. Today, Sony AI unveiled its first major research initiative in the Gastronomy Flagship Project, which aims to enhance the “creativity and techniques” of chefs around the world.

Sony began investing in AI with cooking applications in April 2018, when the company’s U.S. division — Sony Corporation of America — signed an agreement with Carnegie Mellon University to work on AI and robotics research. At the time, Sony said its initial research and development would focus on optimizing food prep, cooking, and delivery because the technology needed for a robot to handle “the complex and varied task of food preparation” could later be applied to a wider range of industries. According to a McKinsey & Company analysis, 73% of the activities food service workers perform have the potential for automation.

The Gastronomy Flagship Project comprises an AI-powered app for creating recipes, a robot that can assist chefs with cooking, and a “community co-creation” plan that will serve as the foundation for the first two efforts.

To create the app, Sony AI says it will leverage a range of data sources, including recipes and ingredient information like taste, aroma, flavor, molecular structure, and nutrients to train “proprietary AI algorithms” that will assist “the world’s top chefs” in pairing, recipe design, and menu creation. The company notes that recipe creation is a challenging research area for AI because of the infinite combination of ingredients, as well as constraints such as location, climate, season, and health and food preferences that must be taken into account. “Through this app, [we aim] not only to assist in making delicious food, but also to contribute to people’s health and the sustainability of the environment,” Sony.AI wrote.

Above: Sony AI’s gastronomy app concept.

An AI system that can whip up food pairings and recipes might not be as far-fetched as it seems. IBM recently announced that it is teaming up with McCormick & Company to create new flavors and foods with machine learning. IBM’s Chef Watson, a research project that sought to create new recipes by analyzing the chemical composition of hundreds of different ingredients, produced more than 10,000 novel dishes. And New York startup Analytical Flavor Systems’ platform — Gastrograph — taps sensory data and machine learning algorithms to suss out products’ flavor profiles and identify areas for improvement. There’s also Los Angeles-based Halla’s I/O platform, which uses AI to generate Netflix-like recommendations for grocery, restaurant, and food delivery apps and websites, in part by leveraging a database of restaurant dish, recipe, ingredient, and grocery item taste and flavor attributes. Others — like Foodpairing, Plant Jammer, Tastewise, and Dishq — offer proprietary recommendation systems that take personal preferences into account.

As for Sony AI’s forthcoming cooking robot, tentatively dubbed Chef Assisting Cooking Robot, Sony says it will help with the entire cooking process from prep to plating through the use of sensors and machine learning approaches like imitation learning. The ambitious goal is to replicate and in some cases exceed the skills and techniques of chefs with “high precision and speed” and to develop robots that can be teleoperated to serve meals to people in remote locations.

Sony AI says that it will support these initiatives with partnerships involving universities, research institutes, and companies “at the forefront” of machine learning research. The division is also pledging to “drive dialogue” with creators and experts in a “wide range” of food-related fields. Experts include Eneko Atxa, chef owner of the three-Michelin-star restaurant Azurmendi in Bilbao, Spain sommelier, chef, author, and aroma specialist François Chartier and restauranteur Joan Roca. The aim is to apply any learnings to the development of AI apps and robots.

Robots in the kitchen are nothing new. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Samsung unveiled Chef Bot, a collaborative robot with arms designed to help chefs with ingredient prep. Startups like Chowbotics, Creator, Miso Robotics, and Picnic have taken the concept commercial with fast-service robots that can quickly prepare pizzas, french fries, burgers, and more fresh to order. But some robotic chef concepts have struggled to get off the ground. In June, Zume, a robotics startup focused on pizza-making, shut down its business and pivoted to food packaging, production, and delivery systems. Sony’s multifaceted approach is perhaps reflective of the reality that robots designed for the kitchen aren’t a surefire investment.


TED talks

Watson is increasingly being used to help solve a range of real-life challenges.

In May, it was announced that Watson would be used to make decisions about cancer care in 14 hospitals in the US and Canada.

During July's Wimbledon tennis championships - where IBM is the main technology partner - the 3.2 million data points captured will be fed into Watson and new tennis facts will be served up via a human-readable alert, which Wimbledon staff will put out on Facebook and Twitter.

And recently, the talks from all previous TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conferences have been inputted into the machine - allowing users to ask a series of questions based on the topics covered.


That's Watson, the artificial-intelligence machine built by IBM ( IBM ) .

Together with the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), the Jeopardy! winning computer has created perhaps the world's first-ever cookbook co-created by computer algorithms. "Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson" is set to go on sale April 14th.

The collaboration began three years ago when IBM began building an "idea-generating tool" using Watson's artificial intelligence. The teams settled on trying to innovate food because it's something everyone appreciates, according to the book's introduction.

As amateur and professional chefs, we already know what ingredients work well together, but given how many flavors and foods there are in the world, there are countless combinations we might never be able to come up with on our own.

An AI computer system focused on food, Chef Watson's creators thought, could run through those possibilities and help chefs design newfangled recipes.

IBM fed Watson a trove of data on existing dishes so it could learn flavor interactions, food chemical compositions, nutritional information, and cultural preferences. Watson then suggested combinations of ingredients, and ICE chefs turned some of those into dishes for the new book.

Among the recipes are familiar sounding appetizers, entrees, and snacks, like bruschetta and grilled asparagus. But given Watson's suggestions, there are twists.

The recipe for Turkish Bruschetta, as an example, uses Japanese eggplants, sumac (a traditional Middle Eastern spice), dry oregano, paprika, and Parmesan. Austrian Grilled Asparagus involves asparagus, yes, but it's served with pig's feet sous vide.

More than 65 recipes are in "Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson," with more recipes and cookbooks possibly on the way.

IBM is using its Watson platform to build a web-based app which will help people create new dishes using algorithms.

"You pick the kind of dish you like -- it could be a dumpling, a burrito, or you can remain vague and say you want it to be an appetizer," said Florian Pinel, a senior software engineer at IBM.

Watson will take what you want, and what it's already learned about taste and chemical compounds, to find possible combinations that work well together.

"If you said you wanted an Indian burrito with eggplant, it will focus on Indian ingredients that go well with eggplants," said Pinel.

After creating thousands of recipes, Watson narrows the selection to 100, sorting them based on preferences, dietary constraints and other requirements defined by the user.

Check out some of Watson's creations from the upcoming cookbook, like a fusion paella:

Indian Turmeric Paella, a dish from the Chef Watson Cookbook

An East-meets-West quiche, the every-meal dish.

Swiss Thai Asparagus Quiche, a dish from the Chef Watson Cookbook.

There can never be enough ways to improve brussel sprouts.

Kenyan Brussels Sprouts, a dish from the Chef Watson Cookbook.

Want some bacon with that drink?

Plum Pancetta Cider, a cocktail from the Chef Watson Cookbook.


When Computers Cook: IBM’s Chef Watson Teaches You a Thing or Two About Flavor

When first encountered with the idea of computer-generated recipes, I assumed the result would be home cook-friendly. If the recipes were the result of science, and not art, then surely the average cook would be able to follow the recipe.

“Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson,” by IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education, proves my assumptions wrong.

The book contains more than 65 original recipes that were created partially by a cognitive computer named Watson, which IBM created in 2011 to answer questions on Jeopardy, and partially by chefs at ICE, an award-winning immersive culinary school in New York. And of those 65 dishes, the vast majority of them will be daunting to the average home cook. With the exception of a few cocktails, none of them are simple enough for weeknight meals.

First, how does Watson work? Here is very simplified version: Data scientists at IBM loaded it up with thousands of recipes and a database of food chemical compositions. They then “taught” Watson known food pairings, like rosemary and potatoes, so it could learn how the chemicals of foods interact, to create those tasty pairings. Then they gave him a list of known favorites like roasted chicken to keep him from reinventing the wheel.

Watson then created “recipes” – or rather, groups of ingredients that he felt should be paired together in a dish. Then professional chefs from ICE created actual recipes, including ingredient amounts and cooking instructions, to create a dish.

Think of it as “Chopped,” plus more ingredients, minus the ticking clock. IBM calls it “cognitive cooking.”

Each recipe in the book is rated by three metrics. “Surprise” measures how rare of the flavor combination is. Recipes are also measured by “pleasantness,” which is based on flavors known to give people pleasure on a molecular level (also called “hedonic psychophysics.” And finally, recipes are rated on their “synergy,” which factors in how common compounds known to taste better together are used.

What was the result? A dizzying collection of totally off the wall concepts, such as the Austrian Chocolate Burrito, which has a beef filling flavored with dark chocolate and ground cinnamon, a cocoa-apricot purée, and mashed edamame (100 percent surprise, 75 percent pleasant, and 45 percent synergy).

Or there’s the Vietnamese Apple Kebab. Don’t be fooled by its simple name – it’s not grilled apples on a stick. The recipe calls for pork meatballs, which contain apples, Vietnamese curry power, and vanilla bean. That’s paired with a pressure-infused curry chicken. Combine those with a pineapple broth, and finally, there are pickled carrots and shitake mushrooms. This one is 65 percent surprise, 60 percent pleasant, and 75 percent synergy.

So what’s the point of the book? It could be seen as a fun challenge to a professional cook. At the very least, it’s some good entertaining, and educational, reading for anyone who is curious about the intersection of food and science.

Here are some of the more interesting recipes from Chef Watson. If you’re feeling bold, try whipping one up! Otherwise, enjoy the sheer genius of what it’s created.


We Spent a Year Cooking With the World's Smartest Computer—and Now You Can, Too

Imagine that every time you started to cook dinner, you had a friend in your kitchen, suggesting recipes that were both brand-new and perfectly suited to your exact, in-the-moment craving or the ingredients in your fridge. Itɽ be a game-changer for the motivated home cook, right?

Well, after plenty of database-combing, an army of ambitious recipe testers, and more garlic cloves than we could ever count, IBM's Chef Watson with Bon Appétit app is ready —and it is indeed part culinary BFF, part kitchen ninja, and part super-smart computer. You can use the cooking app here —and we recommend you do it's kind of addicting. But first, here's a look back on how it all got started…and what an amazing journey it's been.

Want to cook with Watson? Here's what the interface looks like.

Chef Watson and BA : Cooking's Superhero Dream Team

Last year, Bon Appétit began working with Watson to help build anintuitive, and creativity-inspiring cooking app. The team at IBM's aim is to create an app that helps everyone from home cooks to restaurant chefs come up with new classics, so to do that, we gave Watson access to our massive (over 10,000) recipe database . (FYI: The kitchen isn't IBM's only domain—the team is currently using Watson to improve all sorts of industries and domains, like improving users' personal health .)

Watson searches for patterns in the existing recipes and combines them with an extensive knowledge of the science behind food pairings to come up with ideas for unexpected combinations . For example, a braise always requires an initial sear and low-and-slow cooking with liquid. Watson socked away that information, and added its knowledge of the chemical compounds that would make good ingredient pairings to inspire braises with brand-new flavors. To make Chef Watson with Bon Appétit the best sous chef you've ever had, IBM's team turned over the keyboard (and the spatula) to our readers.

Watson Goes Beta (and Gets a Facebook)

IBM reached out to the people who know cooking best—you. Our readers signed up for the opportunity to beta-test Watson . They used the app throughout its many stages, sharing the highs, lows, pitfalls, and wins along the way. Sometimes, it was counter-intuitive (like when Watson suggested a tester put mayonnaise in her Bloody Mary), and sometimes it was inspiring (like the Watson-inspired potluck party one tester threw with her coworkers). However unconventional things like mayo in a cocktail may seem, there is always a scientifically-backed reason behind Watson's suggestions. Mayo and tomato are not a combo we can argue with, but just maybe not in this form.

The beta-testers shared their results and feedback with each other and the team in a private Facebook group as well as face-to-face users sessions. Each post served a very important purpose: They all gave the IBM team the necessary feedback to make Watson smarter. Here are some of our favorite highlights (and things we learned!) along the way.

It's Not Just About Unusual Food Combinations

We knew going into this project that Watson would test our culinary boundaries and suggest dishes we hadn't thought of before, but we didn't quite know how regular people would use it, to, you know, make dinner. It turns out that in addition to inspiring creativity, Watson is a real problem solver. Features like ingredient exclusion (hate kale? Allergic to dairy?) were being used to help testers like Ilene Ungerleider, who was hoping for vegetarian-friendly recipes. But we also saw users ask Watson to help them take on one of the biggest stresses to our food system: waste. Because when using Watson, you can input up to 4 ingredients, our testers were using the app to discover dishes based on what was in their fridge at that exact moment. For example, Beverley Beane Rakow's Carribbean Barley Salad was inspired by the contents of her fridge, and was a big winner with turmeric, red wine vinegar, and fennel.

Gremolata and Herb-Topped Roasted Duck Breast. Photo: Facebook/Aaron Newcomer

Big Flavors, Big Cleanup

Sometimes, Chef Watson inspired dishes with wow-factor, like this Gremolata and Herb-Topped Roasted Duck Breast made by tester Aaron Newcomer. The only downside? According to Newcomer, he had "nearly 40 things to wash after making this and…no dishwasher!" The system is not afraid to use a lot of ingredients or techniques, something our Test Kitchen does consider when developing recipes.

Thanks for the Laughs

Here at BA , real live people write our recipes. Watson uses artificial intelligence to come up with new instructions. Understandably, there were some pretty hilarious hiccups along the way. Like the time a recipe for ground beef called for pulling the meat from the bone (hey, it had to be done at some point!). The system works best when home cooks take in Watson's suggestions and use them as a jumping-off point, driven by their own cooking skills and kitchen knowledge.

You're Only as Good as Your Database

Beta tester Susan Bielanski Sparer shared this funny tidbit with the Facebook group: "Velveeta was listed as an ingredient that pairs well with bell peppers, onions, mushroom, and avocado. Sadly, I had no Velveeta on hand. Perhaps I could have substituted Cheez Whiz…" While it may not be the first cheese you reach for when cooking, consider why Watson suggests it: One of our favorite recipes for queso calls specifically for Velveeta. Once in the database, always in the database.

These strawberry and burrata crostini were created by a beta tester with Chef Watson. Photo: Facebook/Meseidy Rivera

Watson and You: The Best Match Since Grilled Corn and Nectarines

Dawn Perry, BA 's digital food editor who spent many months working with Watson, sums up the exciting future of Watson: "The big learning for me came via Watson's ingredient suggestions. The flavor combinations [the program] suggests, because there are so many, will more often than not suggest something that is not in your regular rotation. Watson gently asks you think outside your own box."

That's exactly the goal—for the motivated cook, there's nothing more exciting than the chance to be delighted by a new recipe. Equally exciting for users is the chance to tailor their kitchen adventures to their specific dietary needs and desires they can use Watson to accommodate gluten-sensitivities, vegetarianism, and more. Watson can even offer creative ways to use up summer's bounty, whether it's from your garden or a CSA . So, ready to get delighted? You can bring Chef Watson into your own kitchen right now . Browse the recipes Watson has already helped create, and use the app to come up with your own exciting combinations. By cooking with Watson, you're not just making dinner—you're helping to make history.


What happened to IBM chef Watson?

May be dead. Too bad too, I liked the idea and never got a chance to use it.

Huh weird. It was still up and being talked about when I last checked it in March.

I got to use it when it first came out, it was. interesting. I wouldn't say it came up with particularly good amalgamations of recipes. But it was great to look at what parts of different recipes it would attempt to combine for your own ideas.

Watson's a bit of a joke in the machine learning and data science communities, as I understand it. Great marketing, reality leaves a lot to be desired (which could describe IBM as a whole).

'Great marketing, reality leaves a lot to be desired' basically describes machine learning as a field.

I dunno, I found its appearance on Jeopardy incredibly impressive.

The wayback machine has a snapshot as recent as March and then it's down by the next crawl in May. Guessing the marketing partnership ended. I think IBM also recently stopped or scaled back supplying statistics for pro tennis (which involved airing a ton of Watson commercials) as well, so I wouldn't be surprised if IBM's PR is simply shifting focus to other projects.

You might be able to contact the old staff and ask - they apparently did an AMA on reddit a while back.


Computer created recipe app goes live

IBM’s supercomputer Watson has turned its hand to cooking, with a new app that creates new recipes based on user’s selected ingredients.

The Chef Watson app offers unique recipes by combining ingredients with data about the way humans perceive food.

The app is being launched with food magazine Bon Appetit. The food served up by the cognitive computing platform has had mixed reviews.

Some of the initial dishes cooked up by Chef Watson were pretty outlandish – such as Baltic Apple pie which included a layer of pork. There are some even more bizarre flavour combinations on the app – including Strawberry Curry.

Last year, Chef Watson was shown off at conferences and other events such as the South by Southwest Festival in Texas.

To create the dishes, Watson draws on vast databases – one containing existing recipes, another providing data on flavour compounds in thousands of ingredients and a third with psychological data about how humans perceive different flavours.

At the time, IBM said the system demonstrated how computers could be creative, but added that it was also an example of how, in future, humans and machines would work together.

“We’ve been impressed by the creative ideas users have discovered so far – to see not only what dishes they were making, but what common food problems they were solving with the help of Watson,” said Stacey C Rivera, digital director of Bon Appetit.

“From cutting out gluten to limiting the amount of waste in their kitchen, the Chef Watson app proves that if you give cooks a tool to help them be creative in the kitchen, they will be.”

Dr Steve Abrams, director of IBM Watson, said: “The application of Watson in the culinary arts illustrates how smart machines can help people make discoveries.

“These technologies are being adopted not only by cooking lovers, but professionals in other industries ranging from life sciences to fashion to explore new ideas.”


IBM’s Watson Has Turned Chef and Launched a Cooking App - Recipes

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Kyndryl, the new, independent public company that will be created following the separation of IBM's Managed Infrastructure Services business, announced that it has appointed industry veteran.

IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced plans to acquire Waeg, a leading Salesforce Consulting Partner in Europe, to extend IBM's portfolio of Salesforce services and advance IBM's hybrid cloud and AI.

New market research commissioned by IBM (NYSE: IBM) found that almost one-third of IT professionals surveyed globally say their business is now using artificial intelligence (AI), with 43 percent.


Meet Chef Watson, IBM’s futuristic foodie robot


Designed with a computer: Austrian Chocolate Burritos, whose ingredients include edamame and apricots. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)

Bored with finding cures for cancer and beating Jeopardy champions at their own game, the IBM computer system known as Watson has taken up a hobby: cooking.

For the past three years, the system’s keepers have fed it a steady diet of cookbooks and food theory. They’re trying to train a machine — which can’t even taste (!) — to understand what makes a good recipe.

Recently, Watson got so pro that, along with chefs from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, it published a cookbook, an eccentric 231-page tome crowded with what its creators call “recipes for innovation.”

There’s a weird beef burrito accented with chocolate and edamame. A risotto studded with candied ginger, of all possible things. A pumpkin-ricotta cheesecake with savory mushroom meringues.

“Watson amplifies human creativity,” said Steve Abrams, an IBM engineer who worked on the Chef Watson team. “It’s a collaboration that allows Watson and the chef to discover more than either of them could independently.”

My personal adventures with Watson begin, as so many kitchen adventures do, with some overlooked, frost-bitten produce I needed to use. I’d planned to throw the frozen corn into a soup, but in the age of “cognitive cooking,” that’s for amateurs.

Home cooks, alas, don’t have access to quite the same version of Chef Watson that the Institute of Culinary Education did. But IBM, in partnership with Bon Appétit magazine, has released a slightly less robust Web app that basically uses the same technology.

You input your ingredients and preferences: a dessert with corn and sugar, I said.

And Watson generates pairing suggestions: pumpkin puree, medjool dates . . . horseradish.

From there, you can add and subtract ingredients, cuisines and dishes from Watson’s list until the system generates a satisfactory recipe template.

Watson is enormously complicated, so it’s hard to explain exactly what the site is doing when it makes its recommendations. But in the most basic terms, Watson ingests a huge amount of unstructured data — recipes, books, academic studies, tweets — and analyzes it for patterns the human eye wouldn’t detect. (If you’ve seen the recent blockbuster “Ex Machina,” you have a general, if sci-fi, model for this type of machine-learning.)

To create the Web app for home cooks, IBM researchers input nearly 10,000 recipes from Bon Appétit. To make the professional version of Chef Watson, researchers went even further: 30,000-plus recipes, scraped from the Internet spreadsheets on the molecular makeup of different flavor and odor compounds in food and academic research into the smells and tastes that people find most pleasurable, an obscure field known as “hedonic psychophysics.”

Much of that information is too technical, too literally microscopic, to register on most chefs’ radar. (Did you know, for instance, that white wine and tomatoes share the chemical compound hexenal?) As Watson crawls the recipe log, it calculates which foods appear in recipes together, and the statistical frequency of each match. It plots chemical affinities on a complex computational knowledge graph.

Corn, Watson decided, pairs pretty well with berries. Using the Watson app, I eventually ended up with a recipe for Corn Wedding Tarts, adapted from a more conventional version with rhubarb and phyllo pastry.

At the Institute of Culinary Education, chefs working with IBM probed Watson for similarly novel pairings. Asked for Spanish pastry ingredients, Watson suggested pepper, saffron, coconut milk, lemon extract and honey. Later, chef James Briscione turned to Watson for inspiration for a Creole-spiced dumpling. The system spit out okra, tomatoes, lamb and shrimp, among other things.

“If you look at the list of ingredients, it’s just gumbo,” Briscione said. “But I would never have thought to condense gumbo and put it in a dumpling like that. . . . It’s such a collaboration between you and the man in the machine.”

Briscione likens the Watson experience to solving a puzzle: You know the ingredients will work together, but not how or in what form. It’s like a more cerebral take on the popular Food Network show “Chopped” — which Briscione, incidentally, has won twice.

My Corn Wedding Tarts are . . . interesting. Not interesting in quite the same way as the chocolate-beef burrito from Watson’s cookbook, with its confoundingly cohesive garnishes of soybean and Edam cheese. Also not, thankfully, interesting in the same way as the mushroom-flavored whipped cream that topped an otherwise excellent cheesecake. (We fed that to our dog, who thought it was great.)

Instead, the corn tarts are just benignly peculiar: crooked rectangles of pie crust, topped with a sticky mound of corn and ginger in a strawberry-jam glaze. Strawberries and corn, it turns out, contain high concentrations of an organic compound called furaneol, which is why this combination, against all odds, approaches okay.

Still, I find myself wondering why Watson didn’t suggest a corn panna cotta with strawberry sauce, or maybe a sweet corn ice cream. In the introduction to their cookbook, the tech-heads at IBM expound at length on the concept of “cognitive computing” — the idea that systems like Watson have become so advanced, they can actually rival human creativity.

Alas, all the engineering advances in the world haven’t taught Watson that mixing corn and jam creates a sticky, mottled goop — or that said goop doesn’t make for appropriate wedding food.


Swiss-Thai Asparagus Quiche. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)
Creole Shrimp-Lamb Dumplings. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)

“There will always be a collaborative relationship between the cook and the information,” Briscione said. “You could have the best computer in the world, but without someone who knows what they’re doing in the kitchen, it’s not going to work.”

That said, Watson is getting better all the time, both as a chef and as a machine. Watson incorporates user feedback into its algorithms, which means it’s always improving.

The cookbook is not the end of the road for Chef Watson: IBM’s Abrams says the company is researching applications for use by the food and beverage industries. (The Post reached out to several chefs for comment, but none cared to speculate on their future under the machines.) Future home versions of Watson could also know your health and dietary needs, creating recipes that are vegan or low-sugar or gluten-free. The Institute of Culinary Education, still partnered with IBM, uses the program to instruct its trainees.

All of this is a sideshow for IBM, of course the company created Chef Watson only as “a metaphor,” Abrams says, for the types of creative “thinking” Watson can do. Elsewhere in IBM’s labyrinthine operation, Watson is advising veterans on their finances and researching potential therapies to treat cancer. A Canadian company recently launched a Watson-powered program that it says recommends medical treatments to veterinarians, “just like a colleague in the room.”

Abrams bristles at the suggestion that Watson could someday replace actual human chefs — or actual human ingenuity. “That’s not what the program was intended for,” he said, without explicitly denying the possibility.

I crunch my way through a slice of Corn Wedding Tart, secure that such a day is still pretty far off. As long as Watson is pairing frozen corn and jam, we humans still have a shot.


Forget Jeopardy: 5 Abilities That Make IBM's Watson Amazing

Would you like an Austrian chocolate burrito? Chef Watson has the recipe, which pairs cinnamon, apricots, vanilla and cheese, that the brainy system created based on its training with the Institute of Culinary Education.

IBM's Watson has come a long way since its 2011 victory on the game show "Jeopardy!" Lately, instead of answering trivia in the form of a question, Watson has ventured into the culinary realm, not to mention the medical and veterinary fields. Researchers have also taught Watson how to determine people's personalities on Twitter. Other researchers are using the system to help museums give individualized tours to guests.

To put this cloud-based system's achievements in perspective, computers historically have churned through complex problems by approaching them in a stepwise fashion, following rigid rules and systems that instruct them how to achieve the optimal solution. Watson has heralded in a new era called "cognitive computing," said Steve Abrams, the director of Watson Life. Cognitive computing helps systems sift through big data and learn the best way to approach challenges, from generating a new fish-and-chips recipe to uncovering human proteins important in the formation of certain cancers. [Superintelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]

Watson once took up an entire master bedroom when it debuted in 2011. Now, its system performance has increased by 2,400 percent, and it's the size of three stacked pizza boxes. Here's a look at five of its latest feats.

1. Culinary chef

Watson has created 65 inventive recipes, detailed in the new book, "Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson" (Sourcebooks, 2015), released yesterday (April 14) after a three-year partnership between IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.

Watson combed through thousands of recipes and learned what foods are commonly paired with each other, such as garlic and oregano. "So, it has a statistical idea of what ingredients are typically used together," Abrams told Live Science.

It also learned the underlying chemical composition that give each ingredient its distinctive taste, and figured out new combinations of foodsthat might go well together. Moreover, it learned how people respond to different foods and textures, Abrams said.

"By reading, [Watson] learned what people have already done, and that gives it kind of a base knowledge," Abrams said. "That's what lets it make predictions about what will work, even though we've never put those ingredients together before."

For the savory burrito, a chef came up with the general concept of combining Austrian chocolate with a burrito, and Watson came up with the other ingredients, Abrams said. Other recipes include a Caribbean-style fish-and-chips recipe with red snapper and plantains for chips, and a Swiss Thai asparagus quiche.

2. Medical advancements

Medical research is awash with detailed studies, but the average researcher reads just 23 scientific papers a month, or fewer than 300 a year, Live Science reported in 2014.

To make matters easier, Watson's Discovery Advisor system can read millions of studies, patents, proprietary documents and other information. Then it provides users with knowledge graphs, which are charts detailing how data points connect to each other, Live Science reported.

For instance, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston used Discovery Advisor to pinpoint proteins that modify p53, a protein that is involved in slowing down or preventing tumor growth. Within a matter of weeks, Watson read about 70,000 studies on p53 and identified six other proteins that could modify the protein, Abrams said.

IBM also released Watson Health on Monday (April 13), a new global data health cloud that will allow doctors and researchers to share and analyze health data. IBM is partnering with fitness tracker makers, such as Apple, on a project that will help upload real-time data into the cloud. [5 Crazy Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech]

3. Veterinary helper

On any given day, a vet may treat one of any 300 breeds of dog and 70 breeds of cat. In all, they need an encyclopedic knowledge of about 1,500 potential conditions. Watson's cognitive capabilities can make that process easier, Abrams said.

LifeLearn, a company involved with education, marketing and communication tools for veterinarians, has harnessed Watson's system to create Sophie, an application that gives vets fast access to the latest treatments and studies on animal care in Watson's cloud, according to a statement.

4. Personality insights

Every time people write a tweet or post on an online forum, they're likely revealing hints about their personality, Abrams said. Watson is learning how to find these clues and infer a person's social characteristics and personality.

"Watson is a system that will be interacting with people," whether it be helping someone fill out a form or answering questions online, Abrams said. Until recently, being a machine without emotions made it difficult &mdash OK, nearly impossible &mdash for such a system to figure out a person's personality and how to interact with them.

So, Watson researchers turned to a field called psycholinguistics.

"I can understand quite a bit about your personality simply by paying attention to the choices you make in the language that you use," Abrams said.

By reading about 2,000 words penned by a person, Watson's Personality Insights system can get a good idea about whether a person is outgoing or reserved, for instance. Some companies interested in microadvertising, or targeting ads to different personality types, are using the system, Abrams said.

5. Museum guide

Imagine going to a museum and listening to an app that tells you about a masterpiece as you near it. It could even answer questions, such as, "What other artists inspired this painter?"

Scientists at IBM Research India are working on such an app. Programmed for Android, the app would harness the power of Watson to guide guests through museums. The researchers presented their work in progress at a conference for intelligent interfaces in Atlanta earlier this month.

Current automated museum guides "render static information," and their lack of "interactivity are major hurdles to ensuring a rich and seamless user experience," the researchers wrote in the summary of their conference presentation.

The app, called Usher, would do three things, they said: sense the visitor's physical location and deliver information about the nearest artwork provide an interactive question-and-answer service and alert users whether any of their social media friends are nearby.

Such a program would "enhance the user experience in a museum by multitudes," they said.


Watch the video: IBM Watson AutoAI machine learning tutorial. Running AutoAI