IBM. It’s perhaps the perfect example of a big, bad IT vendor who likes to own its own PR, but sometimes the stories are actually kind of interesting.

IBM has, ever since its smarter-than-smart offering Watson won jeopardy, been telling all comers how Watson can be applied to pretty much every global problem. Cancer? Watson has a cure. World hunger? Watson is on to it. Of course, IBM has had significantly less success commercializing the promise of Watson and, in a world where AI is seemingly table stakes, Watson is increasingly looking a little bit… meh.

Which is kind of a shame because, beyond the PR aspects, Watson is actually capable of some good stuff. It’s just that IBM has found it hard to actually craft a narrative that goes beyond conceptual and answers some real problems.

Are the Grammys the one?

OK, so I’ll be the first to admit that making life easier behind the scenes for the Grammy awards isn’t quite up there with curing world hunger. The importance of the problem aside, what IBM is doing for the Grammy’s is interesting. In typical verbiage, IBM announced that it is “partnering with eh recording academy to integrate its signature Watson AI capabilities at this year’s 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards.”

Obviously, that is, true to form, hyperbole. it’s not like Watson is going to determine the winners, or be showcased in the awards ceremony. Much more prosaic, but still of value, some specific Watson skills are being applied to some problem areas the awards have. Essentially Watson is going to help the show’s digital workflow to enable the academy to more rapidly and effectively curate Grammy-related content.

Photo Workflow / Photo Picker & Gallery Generator

First up is an image-related tool. Leading up to the Grammys, IBM designed a local photo workflow system which is aimed to be integrated with Getty image photo capture system for the purpose of providing more timely, enriched content. In practice, the workflow will ingest all images coming from the Getty archive, which will then be analyzed by IBM Watson’s Vision and Fashion APIs to identify names of all persons in the photo, x, y positions of individuals, facial emotion and dominant color of garments worn. All analyzed information will then be added as metadata for each image which can then be used by content management systems.

Lyric Analysis with Watson

Delivering insights from lyric analysis is the next Watson-specific offering. IBM will use Watson Tone Analyzer to classify the emotional tone of all of the nominated songs into Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness. The output from the Watson Tone Analyzer analysis will be input to Watson analytics for analysis. Superlatives, insights and other factoids about these lyrics will be extracted and presented to the Recording Academy and partners for use in social posts, live streams, and other digital channels.

Live Video Analysis Dashboard

Finally, to the all-important video offering – IBM will design a live video dashboard that streams the GRAMMY red carpet pre-show content. Throughout the stream, artists and other celebrities will be identified and tagged using a combination of IBM Watson’s Vision API, Speech to Text API and OCR capabilities. The tagging of individuals will be visualized alongside the video stream in a timeline format with a timestamp, names, and scores for each of the recognition technologies used. A user will be able to tap on any timeline element to jump the video to the respective timecode and play the stream from that point. A search utility will be available for users to search for and retrieve a personalized timeline of artists and celebrities.

As would be expected, IBM staffers resort to near-hyperbole to articulate the impacts of this partnership. Per Noah Syken, IBM VP of Sports & Entertainment Partnerships:

The GRAMMYs is one of the biggest nights of the year for the music industry, and IBM is thrilled to partner with the Recording Academy to offer Watson AI capabilities that will allow fans and viewers to get the most out of their viewing experience. With so much entertainment and excitement happening in one night, Watson Media will help the extensive operation run more smoothly.


Look, it’s not a cure for cancer or anywhere near it. It’s also not clear that this announcement will actually help IBM get closer to commercial success with Watson. But as an honest reflection of the value that AI can deliver to existing situations today, this is actually quite a good one. It’s not rocket science, but embedding AI into everyday situations doesn’t need to be.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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