At the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and the future of food, the race is on to build the bot that truly hits the spot. From bots that “go where consumers are,” to chatbots that help you track food consumption, you can now interact with virtual personalities of many types. Microsoft, one of many companies increasing its investments in AI, is now betting on a bot with probably the world’s most famous chef to raise awareness of its bot platform.
The company has launched “Heston Bot,” its first ever food-inspired bot, exclusively for the Skype platform. It lets you get up close and personal with superstar chef Heston Blumenthal, and provides several ways for you to benefit from his fluency with food.
According to Microsoft: “Combining a lifetime of culinary experimentation with the power of conversational computing, the Heston Bot provides users with eye-opening cooking tips, exclusive seasonal menus, and personal anecdotes directly from the master. Every month, the Heston Bot will deliver to you new recipes based on different seasons and themes, so you never get bored with the same recipes. And stay tuned during the weeks in between episodes for additional bursts of cooking info, stories, and chats from Heston.”
To add the Heston Bot within Skype, search for “Heston Bot” in the Skype Bot Directory and click “Add to Contacts.” Once you’ve done that the bot can interact with you in the same ways you interact with friends, family or colleagues. You can watch a video of Heston expressing his excitement about the bot here.
In branding a bot with a superstar chef, Microsoft is working from a particular AI playbook that increasingly appears to have merit. Specifically, the company is leveraging AI to complement a person’s capabilities, rather than competing with human capabilities. This is no small point in AI circles. In fact, Yale University researchers have recently conducted a series of experiments showing that enhancing personal skillsets with AI is much more promising than entirely substituting human skillsets with AI.
In the case of Heston Bot, you can have interactive experiences with a legendary chef that can build on whatever level of cooking prowess you command. Heston Blumenthal is known as rule breaker in culinary circles, so the bot may very well challenge some of your assumptions in the kitchen.
“We’re becoming slaves to recipes,” Blumenthal said. “When you lose your fear of something not working, it does really change how you look at things.”
That message about overcoming fear was also the first statement that Heston Bot made to me as I began interacting with it. It appears to have very strong natural language and AI smarts. I asked it about cooking techniques and more, and it understood me and also directed me to where I can find all of Heston’s recipes. It’s definitely smarter than your average bot.
For more on AI and cooking, see our recent stories on the Forksy conversational foodbot, a chatbot-powered sommelier, and our interview with Michael Gyarmathy, the creator of an Alexa Skill called Cooking Competition.