Is six degrees of separation for real? We’ve built an app for that.

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Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five intermediaries. Prolific character actor Kevin Bacon has become an icon for the concept of interconnectedness and popularized by the trivia game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Movie buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between Bacon and an arbitrary actor. The challenge is navigating through endless sources of news to identify individual articles and a clean match-up.

Now there’s an API for that. Using a basic API to query and uncover trends and aggregations across hundreds of thousands of articles and blogs, Watson can get there in half as many steps.

Pre-enriched news content included in the Watson Discovery Service can identify the connections between current newsmakers using a vast pre-populated data set. Within this public, unstructured data you’ll find insights that connect people, businesses, and more.

Zach Walchuk, a Developer Evangelist for Watson Services, created a sample app that uses Watson Discovery to analyze and dig down to find connections between people. The application is dynamic network visualization, built using D3.js for visuals and a network map that can expand and stretch with natural language processing (NLP) metadata.

Princess Leia to Beyonce in three steps

In a video demo now available on YouTube, Zach shows how to set up and run a navigation query over recent news articles containing a given search term in the title. Using “Star Wars” as the search phrase, the query recognizes “people” entities as both characters from the epic film series and the actors who portrayed them: Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, and Felicity Jones all make appearances. Going deeper into the network map, a search for articles about actor Felicity Jones connects to pop diva Beyoncé, who Jones said in published interviews inspired her Rogue One: A Star Wars Story character.

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Princess Leia to Felicity Jones to Beyoncé. Three degrees of separation.

Are you ready to build on your own with Watson? Find Zach’s code recipe for this app in GitHub and uncover your own degrees of separation. Get a free trial of Discovery Service on Bluemix and share your results on Twitter using #BuildingWithWatson.

Discovery News Demo

Even if you’re not (yet) a skilled developer, you can create your own six degrees of separation between any two people, places, or things using a free and interactive demo of Discovery News. Enter sample queries and view quick output results about entities making the news. Query news content to:

  • Find top entities (people, topics, companies)
  • Extract sentiment over time
  • View sentiment analysis
  • Analyze most frequently co-mentioned entities

Are you ready to start building with Watson?

Senior Copywriter - Digital Services Group

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