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The Cognitive Artform: Watson pays homage to Gaudi at Mobile World Congress 2017

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Art – The expression of ephemerality and imagination. Science – The embodiment of practicality and intellect. These two mediums, so opposite in composition and ideal, should by rights be at odds. But throughout history the opposite has often proven true (Da Vinci anyone?), and art science have orbited one another in graceful harmony.

That is no less true in society today, where art and science have become interlinked through new mediums like technology. The internet has made us all global citizens, bringing the furthest reaches of human experience, literally, to our fingertips, thus adding to our creative capacity in ways unimagined even one generation prior. Cognitive systems, like Watson, are extending our perception even further, by giving us the ability to perceive the wealth of all that humanity has created in a way that is less…mechanical

Today, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, IBM and the NYC-based design studio SOFTlab will reveal how the combination of art and science has manifested in the field of architecture. The team will unveil a unique sculpture designed by architects who were inspired by Watson. Specifically a version of Watson that has been trained on the work of Gaudi and the rich culture and style of Barcelona’s unique architecture.

The team relied on a mix of Watson’s capabilities to find inspiration, including

  • Watson’s Visual Recognition reviewed hundreds of images of both Gaudi’s work and local architecture to identify design elements, objects and trends – recognizing the prevalent depiction of spiders, for instance, in more than a quarter of photos
  • Watson’s AlchemyLanguage was trained on documents about Gaudi and other famous local architects, song lyrics, and historical articles to detect patterns, including themes from nature and the use of objects like geometric figures, mosaics and stone that resonate through Catalan culture


Watson identified the principle style elements unique to Gaudi’s work, including cues he often took from nature: tiles with wrought iron, shapes like beehives and shells, and dream-like color patterns. The SOFTlab team took these findings and used them as inspiration, and the sculpture represents a modern-day approach to theModernista movement of which Gaudi was so famously a part. The piece evokes Gaudi’s spirit, but at the same time remains fresh and original.


While on display at Mobile World Congress, the sculpture will also tap into the pulse and personality of the event to influence the interactive installation’s reactivity and movement. Using Watson’s Tone Analyzer to extract sentiment from tweets, the sculpture can move in real-time by shifting in height across three distinct sections in response to social chatter on artificial intelligence, trending topics and the collective buzz of the show.


Existing as a tribute to the influential style of Gaudi and the incredible culture of the city of Barcelona, the first sculpture to be built with Watson speaks to the inspiration that can be found when the arts are married with the science of cognitive computing…and the story of art and science continues on.


Build with Watson today.

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