It’s not quite the same repurposing an old notebook PC to control the holiday lighting and Christmas music extravaganza at your home, but it’s close. Watson, the artificial intelligence computer developed by IBM to successfully defeat all-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings at his own game, is now being used to create recipes for dishes served on IBM’s food truck, which was recently feeding the buffet-weary at a Las Vegas tech conference and will next be parked at SXSW in Austin.
The IBM food truck is a joint project with New York’s Institute of Culinary Education which enables chefs to pick an ingredient, then have Watson search its cloud of recipes and favorable ingredient combinations to develop potentially millions of entirely new dishes. IBM calls it “computational creativity.”
So far, this exercise has generated such single-college-guy-scrounging-his refrigerator entrees as Swiss-Thai asparagus quiche and Cuban-style lobster bouillabaisse with squash. Some of Watson’s creations and an explanation of the technology behind its Ironic Chef enterprise are available on the food truck website and the recipes will eventually be available on the inevitable app. While it appears that IBM is scraping the bottom of the pickle barrel for work for Watson, which has generated only $100 million in revenues in three years outside of its Jeopardy! prize winnings, the company is investing $1 billion to develop beneficial applications that take advantage of this AI giant, like the lung cancer treatment system used by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Unfortunately, SXSW will mark the last appearance of the Watson culinary cruiser. Perhaps Ken Jennings can lure it out of retirement someday with a challenge to play “What does this taste like?”