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Seth Grossman pitches his winning idea | © IBM
Seth Grossman pitches his winning idea | © IBM
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IBM Asks What Watson Can Do for Storytellers

Picture of Peter Ward
Tech Editor
Updated: 14 July 2017
Watson, IBM’s AI platform, has helped power applications in a wide range of industries. Some of the more intriguing use cases have always been those which apply machine learning to creative endeavors. This month IBM announced the winners of its Storytellers with Watson competition, which encouraged people to come up with ideas to augment storytelling through artificial intelligence.

The competition was launched in partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival, and encouraged developers and members of the filmmaking community to come up with ideas to enhance digital storytelling.

The five finalists presented their ideas in an event in New York earlier this month, and after deliberation from a panel of judges, the winner was announced. The triumphant project, Seth Grossman’s ‘Rip-o-matic with Watson’, will now be developed with help from the Watson team.

Grossman’s idea involved lessening the pain of searching through endless videos to find short clips (or “rips”) to put together as a representation of a filmmaker’s vision. Watson would search through videos for specific quotes, time periods, and locations. His idea was praised by the judges as not only being a great idea for filmmakers, but one that had multiple potential uses beyond filmmaking.

There was a special mention for Sadaf Amouzegar’s ScriptAloud idea, which aimed to use Watson Text to Speech and Tone Analyzer to turn written scripts into audio files. That process would allow casting directors and producers to download and listen to a script rather than having to read through a huge pile of them. Amouzegar also planned to make use of different emotions in automated voices to maintain the original voice of the script.

All of the finalists pitched their ideas at the event in New York, and were given time with Watson engineers to discuss the feasibility of their ideas.

Sadaf Amouzegar got a special mention for her idea
Sadaf Amouzegar got a special mention for her idea | © IBM

Another of the finalists was Mary John Frank, a choreographer and music video director. Her idea, unsurprisingly, involved dance. Frank aims to connect dancers with choreographers and directors by designing a tool for them to share their talents more effectively.

Kevin Cornish wanted to apply the power of Watson to making virtual reality films more interactive. His idea was part of a larger plan to recreate human conversation in virtual reality. With Watson, he planned to give people the chance to have a conversation with other people around the world, regardless of language barriers.

“You’ll feel what it would be like to speak Swahili or Mandarin or Arabic. I want to put people into parts of the world they have never gone to and talk to people they could never talk to without Watson. I want them to learn about what connects us as human being in a way, yesterday, they couldn’t have,” Cornish wrote in his proposal.

The last of the finalists was Billee Howard, the founder and CEO of Brandthropologie, a creative consultancy. She wanted to use AI to identify the key elements of success in marketing campaigns and to build new campaigns for companies based on the “emotional levers” that appeal most to customers.

At the end of the event, although Grossman walked away with the prize, all of the finalists had given everyone present reason to believe AI has a big part to play in helping storytellers bring us the very best digital entertainment in the future.