On Fridays I try to find something to write about that’s a little less heavy than explanations of neural networks and examinations of embedded biases in AI systems. I call it Friday AI Fun.
The BBC recently wrote about a mobile app that uses AI to help you concoct a meal from the ingredients you already have at home. Plant Jammer is available for both iOS and Android, and it doesn’t merely take your ingredients and find an existing recipe for you — it actually creates a new recipe.
According to BBC journalist Nell Mackenzie, the results are not always delicious. She made some veggie burgers that came out tasting like oatmeal.
I was interested in how the app uses AI, and this is what I found: The team behind Plant Jammer consists of 15 chefs and data scientists, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They admit that “AI is only a fraction” of what powers the app, framing that as a positive because the app incorporates “gastronomical learnings from chefs.”
The app includes multiple databases, including one of complete recipes. An aspect of the AI is a recommender system, which they compare to Netflix’s. As Plant Jammer learns more about you, it will improve at creating recipes you like, based on “people like you.”
“We asked the chefs which ingredients are umami, and how umami they are. This part reflects the ‘human intelligence’ we used to build our system, a great ‘engine’ that has led to very interesting findings.”—Michael Haase, CEO, Plant Jammer
My searches led me to an interview with Michael Haase, Plant Jammer’s CEO, in which he described the “gastro-wheel” feature in the app. The wheel encourages you to find balance in your ingredients among a base, something fresh, umami, crunch, sweet-spicy-bitter, and something that ties the ingredients together in harmony.
I’ve downloaded the app but, unlike Mackenzie, I haven’t been brave enough yet to let it create a recipe for me. Exploring some of the recommended recipes in the app, I did find the ability to select any ingredient and instantly see substitutions for it — that could come in handy!
Mackenzie’s article for the BBC also describes other AI–powered food and beverage successes, such as media agency Tiny Giant using AI to help clients “find new combinations of flavors for cupcakes and cocktails.”
AI in Media and Society by Mindy McAdams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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