IBM, McCormick spice up dinner with AI

The best chefs are constantly tasting their concoctions, checking if the food they’re preparing needs more spice or some other tweak to tempt the taste buds. Soon, however, the chef making your meals taste better might never take a bite, or even have a sense of taste or smell. In a collaboration between IBM and McCormick, artificial intelligence will be helping to create new flavours to spice up culinary creations.

Whilst it can take human product developers a decade or more to become experts in their field, an algorithm can be programmed with the knowledge gained by those developers over the years and churn out recipes from across the spectrum of food cultures. With labs in 14 countries, McCormick makes a wide array of cuisines.

“You learn things about what the people in India do versus the people in North America or Europe,” IBM research scientist Richard Goodwin told USA Today. “And then you can try and cross-pollinate good ideas among the different labs whereas typically they wouldn’t necessarily talk to each other on a daily basis.”

Instead of food developers trying up to 150 flavour combinations before hitting on a new recipe, the AI will streamline the process, improving efficiency. As tastes change and people adjust their diets for sustainability purposes, the algorithm will be able to replicate flavours of things found in nature. Want the taste of bacon without consuming animal products? The AI will be able to mimic it very well.

Food products made with the algorithm should be on shelves by the end of the year, with every McCormick lab using the AI by 2021.

“I believe 20 years down the road, this will be the system,” McCormick chief science officer Hamed Faridi told Futurism. “There is no other way of making new products. We are changing the course of the industry just like the electric car. In 20, 30 years, people will look back and say, ‘How did people use a gas-guzzling car?’”