IBM Uses Investors as Guinea Pigs for Computer-Designed Meal

Courtesy John Day via IBM

IBM’s Watson computer system came up with its recipe for Spanish crescents based on academic research.

Attendees of IBM’s investor meeting today noshed on Spanish almond crescents, Australian grilled asparagus and veal croquettes crafted by perhaps the most overqualified chef in the world.

The meal was designed by Watson, the artificial-intelligence computer system that outwitted “Jeopardy!” champions in 2011 and is now trying to treat cancer. Showoff.

Novel recipes, compiled through analyses of academic material, aren’t likely to be a big moneymaker for the world’s largest computer-services provider. IBM’s haute cuisine was meant to show how Watson’s data-driven approach can be applied to other fields.

Watson has competition in the kitchen. One startup, Food Genius, tracks menu items and their popularity to analyze successful flavor combinations for the restaurant industry.

For the Spanish crescent served at the meeting in IBM’s San Jose, California-based research lab, Watson analyzed chemical compounds and data on human preferences to come up with a dish that combined saffron, pepper, honey and chocolate. IBM collaborated with chefs at the Institute of Culinary Education, who provided textbooks and journal articles for Watson to ingest.

But Watson isn’t well versed at working a mixer. The meal was cooked by a human.

Fear not, Emeril Lagasse. There will still be a job for you.

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