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IBM And McCormick Are Creating New Spice Blends Using Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and spice are two topics you don't often see together in the same headline. AI basically represents the bleeding edge of technology. Spices, tasty though they may be, are decidedly old school in nature.

Well, hold onto your hats, because we're about to see what AI can do for the world of spice.

Spices are pretty awesome.

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They're not really necessary — in fact, depending on where you're from, there's a good chance that many of your ancestors barely had any seasoned food — but their flavorful punch makes them sought after.

Back in the day, spices ruled the world.

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For thousands of years, traders from western Europe have traveled to India, the Middle East and Asia in pursuit of rare goods, notably spices, which they could sell for high prices back home. Spice routes are shown above in blue.

The Age of Exploration changed everything.


Maritime routes opened up and shipping made it easier for the spice have-nots to get their hands on stuff like black pepper and ginger. In fact, it was this shipping network that introduced tea to England.

Now we're spoiled for spices.

We're not fighting wars or risking life and limb over spices these days, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing happening in the spice world. McCormick and IBM are teaming up in an unlikely partnership.

It's kind of a dream team.

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IBM is an old-school technology company that's still thriving in the 21st century, while McCormick has been in the spice game forever — well, at least since the 19th century, when they were still hauling spices around on sailing ships.

McCormick has kept up with the times, though.

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They've been gathering taste data for decades, which gives them an enormous amount of information to draw from. They're handing that info to IBM, and that's where the magic truly happens.

This partnership isn't affecting traditional spices.

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Don't worry — they're not implanting microchips into your peppercorns or anything. What they are doing, however, is creating a new line of spice blends that are tailored to taste delicious.

How does tech factor in?

Without getting into the weeds too much, it sounds like IBM is planning on using AI to analyze the taste data, assessing the different flavor profiles and potentially optimizing them.

It's like having robot chefs.

Unsplash | Kara Eads

Rather than using trial-and-error (or just adding butter) to make things taste good, this project could actually provide us with spice packets that are literally engineered by robots to deliver maximum taste.

It goes beyond just creating combinations.

Apparently the learning algorithms give the AI a whole suite of tools, including recommending substitutes and ratios, and even predicting how people will react to these robo-engineered spice blends.

This isn't the only such initiative.

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AI looks to be a big player in the world of food moving forward. One company, Gastrograph, promises to use machine learning and predictive algorithms in a similar way to what IBM and McCormick are doing.

In some ways, nothing has changed.

Unsplash | Lucas Vasques

Food companies have always tried to predict flavor trends and engineer food that hits the taste buds just right. But now, rather than doing a lot of human legwork, some companies are letting AI do the job.

What do you think?

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Food can be a soulful endeavor, so does AI threaten to take the soul right out of it? Or are we one step closer to utopia thanks to benevolent robots? Let us know in the comments!