Weaving Cognitive into Couture: Watson and Marchesa Collaborate for the Met Gala

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Throughout history, we’ve seen traces of technology enabling humans to create – from Da Vinci’s use of the camera obscura to Caravaggio’s work with mirrors and lenses. Today, cognitive systems like Watson are giving artists, designers and creative minds the tools to make sense of the world in ground-breaking ways, opening up new avenues for humans to approach creative thinking.

On Monday, at the Manus x Machina-themed Met Gala, IBM and Marchesa will unveil a cognitive dress, a first-of its-kind garment with cognitive inspiration woven into every step of the creative process – from concept and R&D, to design and finished product. This collaboration showcases the creative potential of building with Watson, and the ability of this technology to enhance human imagination.

The dress’ cognitive creation relies on a mix of Watson APIs, cognitive tools from IBM Research, solutions from Watson developer partner Inno360 and the creative vision from the Marchesa design team. In advance of it making its exciting debut on the red carpet, we’d like to take you on the journey of how man and machine collaborated to create this special dress.

Rooted in the belief that color and images can indicate moods and send messages, Marchesa first selected five key human emotions – joy, passion, excitement, encouragement and curiosity – that they wanted the dress to convey. IBM Research then fed this data into the cognitive color design tool, a groundbreaking project out of IBM Research-Yorktown that understands the psychological effects of colors, the interrelationships between emotions, and image aesthetics.

This process also involved feeding Watson hundreds of images associated with Marchesa dresses in order to understand and learn the brand’s color palette. Ultimately, Watson was able to suggest color palettes that were in line with Marchesa’s brand and the identified emotions, which will come to life on the dress during the Met Gala.

Once the colors were finalized, Marchesa turned to IBM partner Inno360 to source a fabric for their creation. Using Inno360’s R&D platform – powered by a combination of seven Watson services – the team searched more than 40,000 sources for fabric information, narrowing down to 150 sources of the most useful options to consider for the dress.

From this selection, Inno360 worked in partnership with IBM Research-Almaden to identify printed and woven textiles that would respond well to the LED technology needed to execute the final part of the collaboration. Inno360 was then able to deliver 35 unique fabric recommendations based on a variety of criteria important to Marchesa, like weight, luminosity, and flexibility. From there, Marchesa weighed the benefits of different material compositions, weights and qualities to select the final fabric that suited the criteria for their dress and remained true to their brand.

The final cognitive thread in the collaboration weaves technology into the very fabric of the dress, enabling Met Gala enthusiasts to join the cognitive conversation on the red carpet. Using Watson Tone Analyzer, the dress will tap into social sentiment from Twitter users on the cognitive dress, extracting context around the tone of their messages. The dress, embedded with LED lights, will change colors in real-time as the public conversations around the Met Gala unfold online.

The IBM and Marchesa collaboration is just one example of how cognitive computing is unlocking creativity and discovery. This underlying technology is enabling discoveries in industries far removed from fashion, such as pharmaceuticals, engineering, environmental and ecological exploration, and more. This collaboration provides a look at a not-so-distant future where cognitive technologies are intrinsic in everything we do and create.

IBM Vice President, Branded Content and Global Creative

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