SXSW 2016: IBM Watson Displays New Digital Prowess



As SXSW Interactive readies to open its doors in Austin on Friday, IBM Watson is ready to make a big splash.

Watson will be featured in the IBM Cognitive Studio, an immersive showcase packed with eye-opening experiences and curated content built just for SXSW.

IoT Foosball

The interactive foosball table by IBM Cloud Evangelists includes personalized Tweets announced for players and winners from Twitter handle @foosbuzz.

Also, a web app that runs on Bluemix keeps score, shows the leaderboard and doubles as a real-time scoring display for TVs/projectors.

Watson powers the audio cheering section and there’s an arcade-style hardware reset button to start new games. Players can log in with their LinkedIn profiles to get a Foosbuzz profile and show off wins and bragging rights. First to score 5 goals wins. Each new game is announced on Twitter for online fans.

“The excitement around IoT is that you can computerize any object, so why not a foosball table?” wrote the team that developed the technology.

Cook with Watson

Chef Watson debuted at SXSW 2014 serving up Vietnamese Apple kebabs. For 2016, lead engineer Florian Pinel fed the computer USDA data on nutrition facts and chemical information from the volatile compounds in food database, reports Popular Science.

“Wikipedia taught Watson about associations between different ingredients and cuisines, while a research study that looked at peoples’ responses to smelling certain ingredients helped to label foods for boldness of flavor. And finally, the basis of Watson’s recipe knowledge comes from Bon Appétit magazine’s database.”

Chef Watson recipes are available online and in a cookbook, Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson: Recipes for Innovation from IBM & the Institute of Culinary Education.

The team charged with designing Chef Watson—called Watson Life—sees the Chef Watson model as “something that can go far beyond changing the way we think about recipes,” notes Popular Science. “Watson can help cut down on food waste. Celery, sour cream, fresh herbs, citrus, and bread are the most frequently wasted foods, so Pinel’s team worked with Chef Watson to create a recipe that incorporates all of those ingredients. Some day, Watson might be able to help with designing recipes around what you have in the fridge that’s about to go bad.”

Cognitive Cocktail Bar

IBM’s team describes this smart mixology activation as simply:

In the mood for a personalized cocktail? Don’t worry—Watson already knows what you like, and will make recommendations to our bartenders.

Virtual Reality Cycling

The IBM Watson team plans to debut virtual reality cycling at SXSW along with professional cycler Dave Haase.

Beyond SXSW, Watson is working with The North Face on a shopping app launching next month. It’s Watson’s first foray into a mobile app experience in retail. Users speak with Watson via their smartphone for help in narrowing down choices from the brand’s 350 jackets available on their mobile app. Watson asks strategic questions before presenting choices.

The North Face was the first brand to trial a prototype of Watson’s capability with Fluid’s Expert Personal Shopper in 2013. “The big differentiator is that Watson is a learning machine and one that quickly learns from and adapts with each interaction,” Brooke Aguilar, VP Global Business Development at Fluid, told brandchannel at the time. “It puts the power in the hands of the consumer like never before, and it gets better every time.”

And in one of Watson’s other new gigs, Hilton Hotels now offers Connie—named for Conrad Hilton—in partnership with IBM for the first Watson-powered robot hotel concierge.