Watson

The original story telling machine

Written by: Anne Nicholson, Brand Strategy Lead A/NZ

A recently rediscovered article in Life magazine, has uncovered a research project that used an IBM computer to generate original stories in the early 1960s. The computer was the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine and it predates IBM’s Watson by more that 40 years. In it’s original press release the 650 was called an advanced machine that was “the workhorse of modern industry.” However, linguist Dr Joseph E. Grimes had a more creative use in mind.

Dr Grimes began programming the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine to create stories. He based his program on the “rules of folk tales” which was published by soviet folklorist Vladimir Propp in his 1928 book the Morphology of the Folktale. Once programmed, the computer was then able to randomly piece different elements of the folk tales together to create new stories in simple English and Spanish. Examples include:

“A lion has been in trouble for a long time. A dog steals something that belongs to the lion. The hero, lion, kills the villain, dog, without a fight. The hero, lion, is able to get his possession back.”

random story gif

Dr Grimes’ conducted his research at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, which was recently unearthed by James Ryan of the University of California Santa Cruz.

When his work was discovered by IBM Mexico, a Life Magazine photographer Cornell Capa and a journalist were dispatched to Mexico.

A woman is seen sitting in front of the 650's console

The woman seen above is sitting in front of the 650’s console

The future of storytelling

Through Artificial Intelligence, IBM’s Watson has been working with a new generation of storytellers using technology that includes things like vision, emotion, sentiment analysis, and personality.

Watson has helped behind the scenes to write hit songs, inspire fashion designers, develop games and create new works of art.

Last year Watson sat down with famed director and storyteller Ridley Scott to talk about artificial intelligence and storytelling.

New ideas for business

Recently Rob High, IBM Fellow, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, IBM Watson Technology wrote a fascinating blog on IBM’s partnership with Tribeca Film Festival. He points out that “the same cognitive technology we use to bring out new ideas and thinking among filmmakers such as the ones at the Tribeca Film Festival is also being applied in fields such as healthcare, education, retail, insurance and more.” This is also true for marketers where engaging customers in a unique brand story can be a real game changer.

Tribeca Presents: Storytellers with Watson: A competition for Innovation. Sponsored by IBMFrom fables about lions to helping businesses connect with customers, IBM continues to believe in the power of storytelling.

 

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