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IBM Research programs Watson to cook up recipes for SXSW Interactive food truck

IBM Research teams up with the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) to assist chefs in creating unique recipes using its supercomputer Watson. Known for crushing its competitors on the TV game show Jeopardy in 2011, IBM scientists now have Watson dabbling in the culinary arts.

IBM Watson teams up with chefs to generate new recipies
IBM Watson teams up with chefs to generate new recipies
YouTube - IBM Research

As NPR reports (March 5), Watson was reprogrammed by IBM to calculate endless ingredient possibilities for revolutionary recipes. Researchers at IBM are calling it “computational creativity”. The combining of ingredients to create a specific taste that people will enjoy categorizes cooking as a science as much as it is an art form.

IBM Watson steps in to assist chefs with the more advanced reasoning possibilities."Humans have trouble remembering or thinking about large data sets or large number of possibilities. Most professional chefs are good at reasoning about pairs of ingredients. Some of the best chefs can reason about three ingredients. But pretty much no human can reason about four ingredients," research scientist at IBM, Dr. Lav Varshney explains.

To create a dish using IBM Watson, chefs select a main ingredient for the dish, lobster for example. The cuisine is specified by the chefs from a list of regional selections that include cooking practices and traditions from all over the world. Additional ingredients are chosen and then the chef “spins the wheel” to view the final result of computational creativity. Naghshineh estimates that there are a quintillion possibilities of food combinations.

“The idea of creative computing is for machines and humans to work together. In this case, for machine works with chefs to put together new recipes that have never been put together before,” vice president of Services Research at IBM, MahMoud Naghshineh said in a promo video.

Debuting in Las Vegas last week, a Watson food truck staffed with ICE chefs will appear at the South By Southwest (SXSW Interactive 2014) event in Austin next week. SXSW attendees will get a chance to sample some of Watson’s generated recipes and vote online for a menu of dishes in advance.

Not only does computational creativity have the potential to pioneer the food industry into a whole new direction, it can make a social impact. Social issues such as obesity, malnutrition and hunger could benefit from IBM Watson’s recipe computations. Food makers and school nutritionists face the challenge of producing nutritious meals that meet dietary standards and satisfy people’s taste buds.

“By using computational creativity technologies to analyze the chemical compounds and ingredients, food professionals can identify new recipes and pairings that are not only tasty and healthy, but also efficient to produce,” IBM Research said on its official site.