South By Southwest: Secrets, spying, chef Watson

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 10, 2014 at 6:41 pm •  Published: March 10, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — FOMO —or the fear of missing out— is a common complaint at the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas each year.

It's here, after all, that "Girls" creator Lena Dunham spoke on Monday at the same time that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave a teleconferenced talk. All the while, 7-11 trucks handed out free pizza in exchange for a tweet, and IBM showed off the capabilities of cognitive computing in a language anyone could understand: food.

Here's a sampling of what you missed if you weren't able to make the annual geek pilgrimage:

— WATSON IN THE KITCHEN

IBM served up a six-course tasting menu and gave out food samples to show off Watson, the computing system best known for winning "Jeopardy" three years ago. What happens when you ask a computer to analyze thousands of recipes and match chemical flavor compounds that are most likely to surprise people —but also taste good? Recipes a human would have never dreamed up, says Carly DeFilippo of the Institute of Culinary Education, whose chefs created the recipes inspired by Watson. Input a region — be that Russia, Kansas or Ecuador — a main ingredient or two and a type of food, such as soup or pie. The output: Creations such as a creamy Czech pork belly moussaka with peas, parsley root, cottage cheese and dill, or Kenyan Brussels sprouts with sweet potato puree, ginger and almonds.

IBM is quick to point out that Watson is not meant to replace chefs. Rather, the project is meant to get people thinking about real-life applications for cognitive computing.

— WANT TO KNOW A SECRET?

An app called Secret is no longer hush-hush at South by Southwest. Launched just 40 days ago and especially popular in tech circles, Secret lets people share their deepest and darkest thoughts with the people they know, without their names attached. Co-founder David Byttow is quick to point out that Secret is not anonymous, per se, nor is it necessarily about sharing secrets.

"The best things I see are not secrets but things that are meaningful," he says. The company set up a special South By Southwest feed of secrets its users are sharing in Austin this week. Here's one: "I used to bring out cocaine to share with people to help make new friends. Now I bring a really big phone charger. #getting old."

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