Can IBM’s Watson Supercomputer Make Music With Emotion?

Watson Computer (PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Goldberg/Feature Photo Service for IBM)
Watson Computer (PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Goldberg/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM’s “Watson” is a supercomputer learning to process human languages. In 2011, it defeated two human competitors on “Jeopardy,” proving it could out-think people. But can it match humans’ creativity?

Watson’s next frontier is the universal language of music. It is listening to, then writing an original song tailored to a specific mood, reports CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez.

“So it listens to this piece and it deconstructs this piece of music, learns from it, and gets inspired by it,” explained computer scientist Johanee Macoudah, who built the Watson Beat program at IBM’s Austin, Texas campus. “And then it adds on top of it, the layer of emotion that you want it to portray.”

Musician Richard Daskas is teaching Watson to convey emotions by training it to recognize human patterns. Happy or upbeat songs are more likely to be based on major chords. Sad is typically expressed in a minor key.

There are some limitations, and Daskas admits, “To some degree… we can only take it so far.” But he said the technology is revolutionary.

“For sure. I mean, this is kind of the cutting edge of music,” Daskas said.

Music has been moving into the digital age for decades. Technology has created more efficient recording methods and spawned an entire genre of computer-generated beats.

But Watson’s songs are the first digital works based on mood and, according to Watson’s chief technology officer, could even outdo humans. Researchers hope anyone will be able to use Watson Beat just by opening an app.

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