Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
I Let IBM’s Watson Tell Me What to Cook for a Week (medium.com)
280 points by quantisan on May 23, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

"And, in essence, this kind of sums up Watson for me. You need to tinker with it a bit before you can find something usable."

I think this is the most interesting part. Watson seems to work WITH you rather than for you.

Presently it appears to work very well as an inspiration and suggests things that are so far out you would never come up with them yourself. An example is the radish, cod, ginger, olives, tomato and green onions pizza.

I would've loved a bit more focus on what other people thought though. I got the impression that the writer was a bit biased to love the dishes before he tried them.

"Watson seems to work WITH you rather than for you."

Absolutely right, and that interaction is the most interesting part. This also reminds me a talk about Palantir at GovCon. The speaker tells us two stories.

The first story was about Advanced Chess. We know that human and computer both are good at chess for two very different reasons. We also know they these skills can complement each other. So in Advanced Chess, instead of playing against each other, human and computer form a single team and fight against another team.

It's easy to think that if we take the single strongest chess player and the single most powerful computer, they might dominate the tournament. But that didn't happen. The team that won the tournament was a modestly skilled chess player with a regular laptop running freely available open source chess tools. So how did this happen?

It turned out there was a third factor nobody consider. It was the quality of interface between the man and the machine. How easy it is for a human to develop the strategic oversight, the guidance and to rely on the computer for tactical component. Focusing on, on what they are individually good at.

The second story is about Paypal. At the time of Paypal, several other companies were trying to get involve in online payment industry. The other companies were CitiBank, eBay, Western Union. But one by one they folded back where the Paypal succeeded. What happened?

It turns out large corporations were trying to develop a better system to automatically verify transactions. But Paypal went the other way around. They tried to increase the effectiveness of their human analyst by providing better computing service. Everything on the computing side was to empower/help the analyst to explore his data faster, detect anomalies and to make a quick/better decision. It's the man not the machine that had the final decision in Paypal.

I think the core idea of these two stories is how differently can we use our computing power, and how we are doing so far. I think most solutions are trying to develop a set of fixed answers, and hoping their answer are better then their competitors. But I think, it should be the other way around.

Computers are here to assist us. The design of a system should not be reaching a fixed the goal, instead it should help us; acting as a guide providing necessary information helping to make an informed decision. And if used properly, human can already attain superpower.

And I am really curious to see how IBM Watson fits into this bill!

absolutely, would be fantastic to have watson incorporated into sites like supercook.com - really mindblowing use of computational power for the benefit of humanity.

You mentioned Palantir's talk at GovCon. Do you know if it's available online?

Yes it is available on YouTube. Here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f86VKjFSMJE

He tells us the stories within the first 10 minutes. In the following 10 minutes, he talks about what how Palantir's software fit into the picture.

And in the last 20 minutes, he demonstrates the software as an intelligence officer, who is tracking some bad guy across multiple countries. Information have been fed to the software by informants. And now he job is to organize those information into patterns, and trying to come up with a hypothesis about what these bad guys are doing, and what they will do in the future. Finally he shared his hypothesis with his colleagues.

Just like Advance Chess, they are trying to reduce friction between data and the data analyst.

> An example is the radish, cod, ginger, olives, tomato and green onions pizza.

actually this sounds similar to a lot of seafood crudo dishes i've eaten in many major cities.

olive, tomato and onions is basically a bruschetta topping or a basic tapenade/salsa type mixture (to go with the bread or the 'pizza crust'). radish goes well with protein. think horseradish on steaks, sushi, etc.

i think that dish would taste pretty good, if you ate it like bruschetta. or you could eat the toppings with a fork and dip the crust in olive oil. or just fold it up like a taco and dip the whole thing in olive oil.

i think the primary advantage of watson is it isn't constrained by pre-conceived cultural combinations that humans tend to stick to. also why 'fusion' can taste amazing, or be really horrible.

That 'pizza' sounds like something closer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarte_flambée

The only thing 'Pizza' is the bread/base, the rest is something else?

Radish, ginger, olives, tomato and green onions are quite general. They could go together with a lot of stuff, especially fish. In the Philippines one of my favorite restaurants serves a soup with a similar recipe. No radishes or olives and with different varieties of fish, clams and squid.

I work on the team that designed and built Chef Watson, both the current app that is available at https://www.ibmchefwatson.com/ and the food truck that we had at SXSW 2014. If you have questions about the technology or Watson stuff in general, such as the IBM Watson Developer Cloud, let me know and I'll attempt to answer them or track down the right person to answer them. As it is a holiday weekend here in the United States, if I need to track down someone for an answer it might take a couple of days - so I'm not hiding, it just might take a bit of time.

If Medical Watson works for and is paid by cancer hospitals, does that affect Chef Watson's recommendations (either in a positive way, to keep us healthy, or in a negative way due to the profit incentive)? In other words, do the various Watson implementations have any shared data or code base that could influence the other? I assume not, but how cool would that be?

That's a really interesting idea, but that's incredibly advanced thinking and would require some pretty wicked engineering.

Most of the different Watson tools share various code elements - for example, we're not writing a new system natural language processing, entity recognition, and relationship extraction for each tool. Watson technologies, however, are designed so they work inside of a particular domain or with a specific corpus. So, the work with MD Anderson (http://www.mdanderson.org/newsroom/news-releases/2013/ibm-wa...) has a nearly 100% separate data set from Chef Watson with Bon Appétit. I say nearly 100% separate data set because there are some common data sets derived from publicly available sources (e.g. wikipedia) that may be used by both systems.

One of the other challenges is who the systems are designed for. Although anyone can use Chef Watson, it's not designed with everyone in mind. We've realized that the people with the best experiences are a little bit adventurous when it comes to cooking - they'll play around and improvise with flavors to create new recipes. This is a different demographic than would likely be using the health care system (doctors and care providers).

> You may need to make a “do I want to put mashed potato on this lasagne?” leap of faith, and you’re going to have to actually go with it if you want the app’s full benefit.

I didn't try it, but I don't think it so strange. Here in Argentina we eat something slightly similar: "pastel de papas" http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastel_de_papa . I really like it. (It's very similar to "cottage pie" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottage_pie )

I've actually made something very similar myself, as an experiment: a basic baked pasta dish with ground beef, tomato sauce sour cream and so on (lasagna in all but the shape of the pasta, really), with mashed sweet potatoes thrown in.

And it was pretty good! Fundamentally, I don't see why it couldn't have been great in the hands of a better chef.

Besides this sort of experimentation is how you make interesting, unique dishes. It's a lot of fun.

Sweet potatoes are more akin to pumpkin than to ordinary potatoes, I think. In that sense they function as half vegetable, half starch source.

I had no idea Watson was being used for recipes. It reminded me of the genetic algorithm recipes from xkcd (https://xkcd.com/720/).

I wonder what else can Watson suggest. Vacations? Clothes? Gadgets? ... Dates?

This has so much potential it's not even funny. Computer inference plus human common sense seems like a match made in heaven, and dissipates some of the Skynet-scenario fears.

Go Watson!

If you'd like to get an idea about the different ways people are using Watson Technologies, check out some of the Watson Ecosystem Partners (http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/ecosystem.h...). There's a variety of partners that aren't listed on our partners page, in particular you mentioned Vacations, so you might be interested in WayBlazer (http://wayblazer.com/), a new company founded by Terry Jones - former CEO of Travelocity.com and founding chairman of Kayak.com.

The big thing with Watson is that it works with people to make them smarter, rather than replacing people. Watson isn't designed to be a single global AI system that will enslave us (well, at least not yet), rather it's designed to be trained so it can go in depth on various topics to make humans smarter at their jobs - whether that's medicine, finance, travel, cooking, or who knows what else.

Ibm still doesn't understand mobile... Great write up, I went to the site and tried to sign up for beta access to Watson chef, only to have the Watson chef website tell me that they don't support my screen resolution for sign-ups... http://imgur.com/O5n8rZU. Edit: I'm using an iphone5s

It would've been great to have this available on mobile too. Do they expect people to cook next to their computers? Phones/tablets are _the_ device to use in the kitchen for this sort of thing.

it looks very oversized on a desktop computer here. i thought that was a concession to make it display better for mobile users - but obviously not. so much for ibm's new design initiatives.

As an amateur cook avid to try new things, I was extremely disappointed to see a Facebook or IBM account is required to access Chef Watson. I don't have a Facebook account.

No registration would be best, but email / OpenID or even other OAuth authenticators such as Twitter would be nice.

What's wrong with signing up for an IBM account, then? It seems like it'd be the same as email registration, only using their existing infrastructure rather than rewriting it for Chef Watson.

Counterpoint: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3045147/ibms-watson-designed-the...

Applying Watson to recipes is brilliant marketing, period.

The ironic thing about that burrito (it's the Austrian Chocolate Burrito, for those of you with the cookbook at home), is that it was designed on a very early version of the system that required significant help from a professional chef. At that point the system was mainly flavor pairings.

"A disclaimer before we start: Chef Watson isn’t great at telling you when stuff is actually ready and cooked."

"Yes, it's has great potential, but their are so many nuances that go into a simple meal."

The right programming will probally eventually solve the problem, and AI will replace chefs? I hope it doesn't progress that far though.

Maybe I'm the exception, but when I make myself a meal, these thoughts go through my mind--sometimes(Most of the time I greatful there's food in front of me.) but here goes:

Too much food is probally not healthy--obesity potential and believe in calorie restriction. Did I get enough exercise in order to eat a big meal today? I ate too much protein yesterday, I will cut back today. I will use a little less salt tonight because I need to watch my blood pressure--especially if stressed. Did I include enough fiber because the the medication I'm on is affecting my digestion? Should I eat another portion of fish--the Mercury. Is my date allergic to anything I am cooking, or they a vegan, vegetarian? Did I wash the organic lettuce enough? Can I use all the milk in the recipe, my roommate will not have enough for her Cheerios to tomorrow. Oh, and this portion of ingredients I just pulled out of the frig. just doesn't look right, and I don't want to take a chance on food poisoning.(The expiration date is O.k., and it smells right, but there's something telling me to throw it out. (I notice a cat I feed hovers over it's food sometimes, and doesn't eat the perfectly good can of cat food. I sometimes think, he's not being just finicky, and I'm not going to second guess a few million years of feline nasal receptors; I will just give him a different can of the same food.)

I don't think like this over every meal, but sometimes these thoughts do run through my mind occasionally. Sometimes I think I have a lot of unconscious thought that affect my daily life? It's these nuances that, I think, hope--differentiates humans from machines. In reality, AI does scare me becaucase I think they will get all the kinks worked out, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the warning from Hawking's, Gates, and the Tesla guy.

AI will be much better than humans at taking those things into account consistently. Combined with real-time health monitoring, it'll actually be much better at choosing adequate recipes than you and me, who have to rely on outdated data and heuristics.

Spoiled food detection is also coming - the food can itself will warn you if it's spoiled: http://www.checkpack.ugent.be/

> I ate too much protein yesterday

I can honestly say that's never a statement that has ever crossed my mind, haha.

> Is my date allergic to anything I am cooking, or they a vegan, vegetarian?

This is incredibly frustrating. It seems like every single young woman has bizarre food taboos that are based on no rational basis. The gluten-phobia thing has gotten out of hand, but in general there is just so much food woo going around.

> It seems like every single young woman has bizarre food taboos that are based on no rational basis.

I'll ignore the blatant sexism.

As a young woman, although admittedly not single, who happens to be vegan I really don't understand the point you are trying to make here.

I am vegan because I would rather not have had a sentient animal purposely killed for my meal - and it is a decision I came to after years of thought and consideration.

And yes, there is a growing trend of people caring what they put in their bodies - whether it is noticing that caffeine after 2pm disturbs their sleep, or that as they age they need to consider an increase in b12 or vitamin D - the majority of these choices are very rational ones - I have yet to meet a person whose diet choices fall out of the range of rationality - except, perhaps, the excuses people give me for not cutting down the amount of <insert foot they acknowledge they eat too much of> in their diet.

> I'll ignore the blatant sexism.

Stating a fact or observation is not sexist by itself. The anecdotal data around me shows that the people with food intolerance and I won't eat X because someone in the newspaper misinterpreted a study have a even number of X chromosomes. To make sure there is balance - there is a lot of bronutrition in the opposite direction.

> I have yet to meet a person whose diet choices fall out of the range of rationality

Any person that observes religious restrictions - that is not rational. Also any person that refuses to eat X based on pseudo, improperly conducted or improperly understood science.

> I am vegan because I would rather not have had a sentient animal purposely killed for my meal - and it is a decision I came to after years of thought and consideration.

That will push you only to vegetarian. To go vegan you need more reasons.

I will agree that there is much ignorance in the world surrounding what we eat and in science in general - however, as I said, when I talk to people who have dietary restrictions they tend to have a sound, rational basis for them.

> That will push you only to vegetarian. To go vegan you need more reasons.

There are no animal products which do not involve the killing of sentient creatures (if you doubt this I would suggest learning about the process by which milk or eggs are farmed).

Sound and rational means peer reviewed paper ...

I spend the summers on a (nonindustrial) farm, have taken eggs directly from under the hen, milked a cow, drank honey directly from the centrifuge and slaughtered some chickens (funny) and pigs (meh). I am well accustomed to the process.

Your vegan foodstuff also require the killing of sentient creatures - to grow food we have displaced a lot of animals from their habitats. Sometimes quite forcefully. So yeah - you probably have fewer animals on your conscience , but you have some.


> Sound and rational means peer reviewed paper

"My doctor has told me I should not take in as much potassium as I have been so I am reducing my consumption of legumes" and "I have an ethical objection to killing sentient creatures so I restrict my diet in ways that minimize such killing"

Are both sound, rational judgements which do not require a peer reviewed paper.

>You(sic) vegan foodstuff also require the killing of sentient creatures - to grow food we have displaced a lot of animals from their habitats. Sometimes quite forcefully. So yeah - you probably have fewer animals on your conscience , but you have some.

I agree with you, completely - it is an uphill battle. It is very difficult to not directly compensate the killing of creatures in a world that considers it moral to kill 50+ billion animals every year (not including marine life) - but my ethics require that I at least try.

> "My doctor has told me I should not take in as much potassium as I have been so I am reducing my consumption of legumes"

That is rational, also requires peered review paper somewhere in the chain. The doctor read it and formulated advice based on it. Or at least that is the way medicine works. I hope.

But is having ethical objection to killing rational itself? We become what we are as being the better killers. Anytime, anywhere?

Stating a fact is not sexist. Stating anecdata often is, it is reflecting your conscious or unconscious biases as you collect the anecdotes.

"It seems like" != "a fact".

> I'll ignore the blatant sexism.

Well, I don't date men, so my sample size is composed entirely of the women I've dated (the gp quoted was talking about cooking for a date).

I would argue that worrying that much about what you eat is a very privileged problem to have. Nevertheless, it doesn't make much difference to me what somebody else chooses to eat, so long as it doesn't impinge on my freedom to eat what I want. Which is sort of the rub here. I've never been so foolish as to date a vegetarian or a vegan, but here is a list of things that have been unilaterally banned (briefly...) from my refrigerator:

American cheese Mushrooms, Fish, Spam, Deer meat, non-multigrain bread, Bologna, Hot dogs, Broccoli, Milk

Fantastic article. I've been hearing about Watson and food on NPR or on HN for the last few months, but this article did a great job of detailing the experience. My wife had signed me up to make dinner tonight. We're going to my parents' place to hang out with them and with my brother's family. I think I'll plop my laptop on the kitchen counter and have us play with Watson until we find a fun and AI-ishly-weird recipe!

I've made something similar but in Swedish: http://matsidan.com/

What goes well with what is based on around 5k recipes.

Haven't worked on it for some time though, kinda got stuck. What I'm trying to solve is to make it easier to make a weekly food plan and grocery list.

It won't allow me to create variations of pot brownies. Marijuana isn't an available ingredient. IBM? Fix?

I'd like to use Watson too. How do you get access to the API? How much does it cost?

The website for it is pretty vague.

It's pretty easy to sign up at https://www.ibmchefwatson.com/

It's free, and there's a pretty decent web UI once you're logged in.

I could be wrong, but I think the previous poster was asking about getting API access to Watson itself, not the cooking site.

We haven't released a direct API for Chef Watson yet. However, there's lots of different APIs that you can get access to via the Watson Developer Cloud (http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/developercl...). Probably one of the most interesting the new Natural Language Classifier API, which we just released last week (http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/developercl...) - you'll need to have a Bluemix (http://www.bluemix.net) account and then go down to Bluemix labs to get the service.

I want to see them do this for cocktails too!

In related news, I asked it to make me something with: beer, whiskey, vodka, wine, tequila,cognac, sherry,gin,triple sec,bitters, champagne, merlot, pinot noir

And I'm actually curious to try it!

There's a few cocktail recipes in the system if you know how to haze it well enough. Unfortunately, Watson tends to really like bacon in cocktails as it can easily connect a multitude of flavors (sweet through carmelization, salty through the curing, meaty, etc). It's always a bit of a buzzkill for folks with dietary restrictions. Chapter 7 in the "Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson" cookbook as a few recipes.

What is unfortunate about bacon?

Really glad to see anthropomorphism like this becoming justifiable in everyday life. The move away from anthropocentrism will usher in a new era of understanding of our surroundings and fellow beings.

Luckily the author seems like he isn't too afraid of trying new things. I know a lot of people that would refuse to eat any of those things.

It takes a bit of "free your mind" and sometimes a lot of water.

Source: IBMer who has had a good bit of Chef Watson food. Favorite: Austrian Chocolate Burrito.

most people do. and we all kind of look down on them with a mix of pity and sympathy, just like you.

tldr: everything tastes great with lots of butter and salt.

seriously, an interesting article and I would love to work with watson in the kitchen, but it obviously sounds like watson leans on butter and salt too heavily to make dishes delicious.

It's a true point, though.

I tried watson too, but it told me I needed to hire 30 "IBM" chefs at 2000USD each per day, but instead of top chefs they sent a team direct from the subcontinent who were being paid 100USD each per day who had never ever cooked.

bahahaha. Too true.



I volunteer to eat whatever chef watson cooks for me.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact