There has been talk about how artificial intelligence and all of its applications is going to impact the workforce. The general consensus of scared humans is that robots are going to replace those that work jobs in assembly lines and warehouses and the like. I’m not here to dispute that fear right now, though; I’m here to scare another whole group of workers that probably haven’t given much thought to AI yet: chefs.
That’s right. Chefs need to watch out for robots. While a chef’s work has always been coveted as something that came with years of experience and a refined palate, IBM and McCormick are betting that AI might be able to create brand new spice blends that humans haven’t thought of, and maybe never could.
McCormick is a popular company that manufactures spices, seasoning mixes, condiments, and other flavoring products for the industrial, restaurant, institutional, and home markets.
IBM is an information technology company that is highly focused on AI, including Watson services which are powered by AI and designed to help “uncover deep insights, learn more from less data, and reimagine how you work.”
As part of their long-game collaboration which has been at least four years in the making, the spice company provided IBM with a bunch of taste-based data. This data came for the company’s four decades of research in their industry, as well as information they have on flavor palate preferences from their customers. Using machine learning, the platform developed by IBM is able to sort more information than our measly human brains could handle. That information will create algorithms that can help uncover brand new flavor combinations. This is very different than the current process, which basically requires humans to just spend years experimenting with the – hundreds? Thousands? I’m not a spice expert here – of ingredients that could be combined to create flavors. The process means not only having to select the right combination of spices, but also the right ratios of each. Honestly this sounds like a lot of work.
On the creepy side, IBM fancies their AI to be so accurate that can not only develop a formula and a backup formula that provides substitutions, but that it can also predict how humans might respond to how the new spice tastes. IBM likes to explain this as a way that they are driving innovation and transforming the processes that we use to develop flavor. So, you can look at it as innovation or dark magic, your choice.
The companies have worked together to create a few flavors which will be hitting stores soon. Those flavors will be recipe mixes, and include Tuscan Chicken, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin, and New Orleans Sausage. Once these little AI masterpieces are released, we can look forward to IBM and McCormick expanding their AI spice revolution globally.
What’s even better/scarier is that is this whole spice thing takes off, we could expect to see this type of technology applied to other retail and consumer industries, like health and beauty, including makeup, perfume, and cologne.