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​Cooking with AI? Elementary, says IBM Watson

App will allow adventurous cooks to use IBM's cognitive computing system to create new dishes.

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The Chef Watson app. Image: IBM

IBM has developed a web app to allow cooks to create recipes with assistance from its congnitive computing system Watson.

The company said it wants to use the web app to demonstrate how cognitive computing systems can augment human creativity, and so after winning Jeopardy! Watson has now turned chef - even if some of its creations are a little far from the mainstream: Kenyan Brussels Sprout Gratin anyone?

It said the app, aimed at 'adventurous cooks', is the result of training its cognitive computing system to understand 10,000 recipes from the database of cookery magazine Bon Appétit. The system factors in information on how ingredients are used in different dishes and cooking styles, plus data about food chemistry and human taste preferences, and feedback from the beta.

"Watson's strength is finding patterns and relationships hidden among data, providing people with a jumping off point to explore ideas that may never have been considered before," said Dr. Steve Abrams, director of IBM Watson. This means that Watson could help discover unexpected flavour combinations.

"The application of Watson in the culinary arts illustrates how smart machines can help people make discoveries. These technologies are being adopted not only by cooking lovers, but professionals in other industries ranging from life sciences to fashion to explore new ideas."

Daring cooks can start with one ingredient and the app will suggest three other ingredients that it predicts go well together. It will also suggest dish ideas, ingredient amounts, and preparation steps that serve as a starting point for the cook to customise.

Watson is designed to analyse large volumes of data and then respond to complex questions posed in natural language. While thinking up recipes is a relatively trivial job for the system, it is also being trialled in areas such as healthcare. Recently IBM said Watson Health will partner with more than a dozen cancer institutes to personalise treatment via DNA, with the aim of understanding a genetic profile and gathering medical literature to come up with treatments.

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