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IBM Watson is Making Connections at the GRAMMYs

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GRAMMYconnect uses IBM Watson to help you discover connections between musicians like Brandi Carlile and other GRAMMY-nominated artists over the last 61 years. (Credit: IBM)

There is a game I play whenever I meet someone new. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, I immediately start to look for commonalities between us. Do we live in the same part of the world? Did we go to the same college? Do we know any of the same people? Do we work for the same company? (It happens more than you might think at IBM.)

It’s not a conscious act. It’s just a habit that satisfies my need to connect with people. A need that is shared by most (if not all) of humanity. In fact, I would argue that personal connections, and the relationships built upon them, are an essential part of what it means to be human.

So what could a machine possibly do to improve upon this quintessentially human act? That’s exactly the question we explored with GRAMMYconnect.com, a new site that uses the AI of IBM Watson to identify the many ways in which GRAMMY-nominated artists are connected to one another.

GRAMMYconnect is a truly unique use case for AI. We used IBM Watson Discovery to ingest and analyze more than 14 million articles and bios on more than 19,000 GRAMMY-nominated artists over the last 61 years. The system then identified more than 20 million common attributes between artists, bands, producers and other public figures. They might be from the same town. Work with the same producer. Or share a passion for a common cause.

We then took the results and designed a beautiful web site at grammyconnect.com, where music fans can explore how this endless universe of talented musicians is connected. The site provides the Recording Academy with a new way to engage fans before, during and after their marquee awards show on February 10th. But it also gives them a new way to understand the dynamic and complex industry they represent.

You may be thinking GRAMMYconnect is no different than any number of social media platforms that connect people online. But those sites suggest connections based on content we provide to them. We literally tell them what to look for and enter it into neat, little databases. Watson Discovery, on the other hand, mines mountains of untapped, unstructured information. It draws out net new connections and insights from that data, above and beyond what the content was originally intended to convey.

This is what folks at IBM mean when we talk about data being the most abundant natural resource on earth. There’s plenty of it, but you have to be able to refine it properly to get the full value. The technology that underpins GRAMMYconnect can also help find hidden behavioral patterns amidst millions of articles, blogs, and social media platforms – patterns like those that have helped deliver highly accurate financial market insights to investors.

There is no denying that AI is a powerful business tool. It’s ability to transform the messy, chaotic world of digital information into insight will drive competitive advantage for decades to come. But last month I watched Brandi Carlile – the talented singer and songwriter nominated for 6 GRAMMYs this year – as she scrolled through GRAMMYconnect, discovering connections she didn’t even know she had. With each connection, her face lit up. And I was reminded why IBMers will often tell you that AI should really stand for “augmented intelligence.” Because there is nothing less artificial than making a meaningful connection with another human being.

Learn more about how IBM Watson is helping fans discover hidden connections between their favorite GRAMMY-nominated artists at ibm.com/grammys.

Vice President of Sports and Entertainment Partnerships, IBM

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