I’ve been a long time wanna-be chef who recently has been cooking with IBM’s Watson supercomputer as my sous chef and it has been mind-blowing. Let’s take a second to just reflect on that sentence because I’ve been cooking – with a supercomputer. It sounds like a sequel to the Spike Jonze movie ‘Her’ but int his case science fiction has become a reality thanks to IBM and Bon Appetite giving me Beta access to their new Beta venue Chef Watson.
IBM’s cognitive computing system that beat two reigning champions on the ‘Jeopardy!’ has partnered with Bon Appetite magazine to learn everything it can about food. Watson has been studying recipes and learning about ingredient combinations which can cross-reference with data about the flavor compounds found in ingredients and psychological information about people’s likes and dislikes to produce a data model of how the human palette will respond to all of those combinations. The rest of us call that end result a recipe.
Cooking with Watson is an interactive, web-based experience where the simple interface really undersells the power of what can be created. You start the process by telling Watson the ingredients you do or do now included in your dish and what type of dish you want to create. You can then tell Watson what style of dish you want to create like ‘low sodium’, ‘easy’, make-ahead’ or even ‘bridal shower’. Based on these different types of inputs Watson will then generate hundreds of unique recipes for you to choose from. For those of us who love to cook having access to something like this is like having an interactive version of the all-time greatest episode of Iron Chef. As a cook, I really like this interface and way of capturing data but I do wish that there was the ability to also add technique to the list so I could add parameters like ‘grilling’, ‘smoking’ or more exotic techniques like ‘sous vide’. I have recently bought the Best Sous Vide machine I could find so that I could learn a new way of cooking. Hopefully, they will create a techniques section soon so that I can put my machine to good use. I will keep you updated with my success…
My biggest take away from my brief time cooking with Watson is that this represents the dawn of something new and amazing in consumer-facing technology. Up until now, so many consumer experiences with sites like Google or digital personal assistants like Siri have been nothing more than the ways of presenting existing data. What Chef Watson is doing is CREATING new content. That is a profound and meaningful difference for what consumers can come to expect from a digital experience and for digital designers like me will start to think about creating an interactive experience that is unlike anything we have ever created before.
Now I have to get back to deciding if I want to cook a Belgian Bacon Pudding or a Peruvian Potato Poutine.