We finally have The Jetsons’ food machine. Sort-of.

Many of us might remember watching Hanna-Barbera’s The Jetsons and recall George and Jane pushing buttons to get things done. George created sprockets at Spaceley Space Sprockets and Jane kept home tidy and prepared dinner for the whole family.

This ‘food-o-matic’ machine is now closer to reality thanks to IBM’s Watson (yes, the same Watson that defeated two of Jeopardy’s most successful contestants, a couple of years ago).

Watson is a cognitive computer, which is capable of understanding natural language questions and is able to process and organize vast ammounts of data (from books to tweets), which is later used as its knowledge repository. It mirrors the way humans learn; first observing, then interpreting, next evaluating and finally deciding.

Now, cognitive computing has taken one more step and Watson, or Chef Watson, as its peers call it, has published a book, titled: Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson: Recipes for Innovation from IBM & the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).

IBM’s researchers worked with the NYC-based ICE and fed Watson (pun intended) with all of their recipes, ingredients, techniques and also taught it the chemistry behind food pairings and what makes things taste great. Watson was also trained in cultural preferences, dietary constrains and nutrimental information.

Watson came up with ingredients combinations that were then prepared by ICE’s Chefs, and to their surprise, the creations tasted great! Watson, not bound by judgment or preferences, was daring enough to create combinations a human Chef would not even consider worth trying.

For example, how about mixing cider with plum and pancetta? Gross? Think again.

Or how about mixing traditional Spanish paella with Indian spices? Each of the recipes Watson created were scored by itself on three scales: surprise (flavors not expected together), pleasantness (what makes food taste great, at molecular level) and synergy (how well the ingredients play with each other). The “Indian Turmeric Paella”, as the dish was named, scores 100% of surprise, almost 60% of pleasantness and more than 80% of synergy.

After this endeavor, IBM is working on creating a web app that will enable users to enter what they want to eat and what ingredients they have, and let Watson surprise them.

Remember to keep an open mind and bon appétit!


Blog post by Francisco Xavier González Alvarez, MEM Student:

Post originally appeared on the author’s Medium blog.

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