SXSW: IBM Watson could be mixing your next drink (and analysing your personality too)
By Sarah Housley

IBM’s AI can make your cocktails taste better and your music sound more epic. WGSN editor Sarah Housley reports from SXSW Interactive

Mar 12, 2016
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IBM’s cloud-based cognition product Watson cooked up a storm at SXSW in 2014, putting together unlikely food pairings based on their base flavour profiles – and coming up with combinations that would likely never occur to a human. This year, Watson’s back in Austin with a whole Cognitive Studio – four rooms’ worth of experiences designed to excite SXSWers about the possibilities of cognitive computing.

After completing a brief pictorial questionnaire about their taste preferences, hobbies and lifestyles, participants are fitted with a wristband and have the opportunity to see how Watson can make cocktails taste better and music sound more intense.

IBM Cognitive Studio
IBM WatsonFirst up, the Cognitive Cocktails. Based on your flavour and lifestyle choices, you’ll get a mix that leans towards different profiles including classic, beachy, bubbly or sweet. Watson isn’t mixing the drinks itself – there are human bartenders on hand to do that – but the flavour combinations are driven by its data analysis.

For a less flavourful but potentially more insightful view of yourself, you can scan your wristband at a touchscreen table and enter your Twitter handle to see a breakdown of personal characteristics, tendencies and trends, also as aggregated and crunched by Watson.

IBM Watson

Then, in a listening room, you can pick a track and instruct Watson to skew it to sound more Spooky, Epic, or a host of other traits, all in the pursuit of personalised music that fits your state of mind or is tailored better to your environment.

There’s also an opportunity to meet Pepper, SoftBanks’ next-generation service robot, and to play rock-paper-scissors against IBM’s Apache Spark software (which will use what it learns from you to improve its next game).

IBM Cognitive Studio

In a week that looks set to be dominated by AI and machine learning, IBM Cognitive Studio offers an insight into the practical changes that cognitive computing could introduce into our lives. The message? The future is not all about killer robots – it’s also about algorithmic cocktails.

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