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IBM Watson’s first cognitive dance party

Cognitive Dance Party. Photo courtesy of IBM.
Cognitive Dance Party. Photo courtesy of IBM.

When dancers hear the word “robot”, they’ll probably break out the well-known dance move! With “the robot”, motions start and end with a physical dimestop (an abrupt stop). Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 made the popping-inspired movement famous in performances of “Billie Jean” and “Dancing Machine”. But in the near future, “the robot” could have a very different meaning for the dance industry.

Daybreakers SF attendees dance at dawn at the world’s first cognitive dance party. Photo courtesy of IBM.

Daybreakers SF attendees dance at dawn at the world’s first cognitive dance party. Photo courtesy of IBM.

Earlier this year marked the first ever “Cognitive Dance Party”, hosted by Daybreaker in San Francisco, California. The event used IBM Watson, the company’s cloud-based cognitive system that famously won Jeopardy! back in 2011. Watson can process and interpret data at incredible speed. This innovative technology has been employed in the legal system and health sciences. But more recently, Watson’s technology has been put to a more social use — curating a dance party. Imagine attending a party where the food, music and atmosphere are inspired by your preferences, energy and mood! Well, thanks to Watson, that could soon be the norm. Dance Informa was able to interview an IBM spokesperson about Watson and the world’s first Cognitive Dance Party.

What is Watson? 

“Watson is a cognitive computing platform that understands the world in the way that humans do – through senses, learning and experience. It learns at scale, reasons with purpose and interacts with humans naturally. Watson can quickly analyze massive amounts of structured and unstructured data to reveal previously undiscovered insights and patterns to help with decision-making. The platform is powered by 50 underlying cognitive technologies to provide capabilities that span language, speech, vision and data insights.”

What was the world’s first ‘Cognitive Dance Party’, and how did it come about? 

“The world’s first Cognitive Dance Party was an early morning dance and fitness event that used IBM Watson to bring cognitive technology to life. Attendees witnessed firsthand how Watson can be applied to elements of the human sensory experience to inspire new ideas – from connecting with you emotionally to the music and food you consume. IBM worked with Daybreaker San Francisco because it’s a vibrant, local community that attracts developers who use Watson services.”

How did Watson operate the dance party? 

Cognitive Dance Party. Photo courtesy of IBM.

Cognitive Dance Party. Photo courtesy of IBM.

“Daybreaker used Watson to help curate tailored event tracks for participants based on their specific personalities, as well as inspire the cuisine and music people experienced.

Upon registration for the event, participants had the option to voluntarily enter their Twitter information on an IBM-owned page for Daybreaker. The information was analyzed using Watson’s Personality Insights service, which extracts personality characteristics based on text. Watson then curated event tracks for each attendee based on their personalities. Similar personalities were grouped together and were assigned a category indicated by colors including purple, red and yellow. Each event track determined the category color that guests were encouraged to wear at the event, the pre-party playlist they received, the fitness class suggested that they take and original Watson BEAT music that was played. In addition, an aggregated Personality Insights analysis of participating attendees’ social media profiles was translated via shapes and colors onto a responsive floor that all 500 attendees danced on. If an attendee did not have a social media profile to input, a short survey was provided as an alternative option at the door of the event.

Separately, tweets with particular keywords were fed to Watson’s Tone Analyzer, which then provided sentiment results that were reflected in the color of the installed, rising sun at Daybreaker. The keywords used were ‘goodmorning’, ‘riseandshine’, ‘morninginspo’ and ‘morning’. So, for example, if the majority of tweets showed a significant amount of joy, the color that represents joy dominated the color of the sun.”

In collaboration with Daybreaker SF, the dance party was very much a wellness event (including fitness class and breakfast in the early morning). Why did you choose this setting? 

“The event and collaboration with Daybreaker SF provided a chance for us to deliver a hands-on experience that shows how Watson can be applied to elements of the human sensory experience, potentially sparking new ideas and creativity. Human and machine collaboration continues to drive innovation; in fact, by the end of 2017, we’re expecting Watson to impact the lives of more than a billion people. Pushing the boundaries of people’s imagination is a central part of extending this impact, and events like Daybreaker help us inspire the thinking that fuels this potential.”

Cognitive Dance Party. Photo courtesy of IBM.

Cognitive Dance Party. Photo courtesy of IBM.

Could Watson render the job of a DJ obsolete? 

“At IBM, we are working on ‘augmented intelligence’ versus ‘artificial intelligence’. It’s the critical difference between systems that enhance and scale human expertise (augmented intelligence) and those that attempt to replicate human intelligence (artificial intelligence). Cognitive computing introduces a new level of collaboration between man and machine that will only enhance and expand human intelligence, not replace it.

For example, Watson is helping professionals across creative fields to design and create, helping them discover new patterns and explore new ideas. During Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, IBM and design studio SOFTlab unveiled an intricate, complex cognitive sculpture inspired by the iconic work of Gaudi, and developed by design professionals using Watson. In fashion, IBM partnered with Marchesa to create the world’s first cognitive dress, a garment with cognitive inspiration woven into every step of the creative process. The same cognitive technology that is being used to inspire creative professionals in media and entertainment is also being applied in fields such as healthcare, education, retail and more.”

How could Watson affect the dance industry in the future?

“We are putting cognitive technology in the hands of people everywhere through the Watson platform, and we’re always looking for opportunities to partner with innovative communities and developers to build solutions and experiences with the technology.”

To sign up for a Daybreaker Dance Party, visit www.daybreaker.com.  To learn more about IBM Watson, check out www.ibm.com/watson.

By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.

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