Can a machine know people better than they know themselves? To answer this question, we created an interactive installation, the Cognitive Photo Booth, where IBM's AI computing system, Watson, created data-driven portraits of people.

Our data is who we are. It's an echo of our behavior. A record of our emotion. In the Cognitive Photo Booth – a key attraction at the AI-inspired Art with Watson portrait exhibition – IBM Watson turned data into the truest portrait ever captured, and showed how technology can reveal the person within.

Thousands of gallery guests queued up to chat with Watson, who then analyzed their answers to his questions, using his Speech to Text and Tone Analyzer APIs. Each guest’s personality profile was then presented as a custom, poster-sized portrait, in the form of a data visualization, printed in minutes.


For the first time ever, the public spoke with Watson. By conducting an interview, Watson analyzed user's personalities based on a series of questions.

Exhibit-goers to the larger Art with Watson gallery discovered quirky, unassuming Watson had some questions for them. He wanted to know your favorite artist, your childhood friend, what you wanted to be when you grew up.

AI technology development can be intimidating. Through balancing futurist and humanist elements, we designed the Watson experience to be a friendly and intelligent conversation partner. We worked with our friends manvsmachine to create the avatar animation, and developed an user experience focused on intuitive gestures and natural language.


Then Watson created a custom portrait based on five personality traits. 

Following the conversation, Watson created a portrait of exhibit-goers based on traits he'd discovered, showcasing his ability to find novel insights in attendees. Using the Tone Analyzer APIs, Watson measured people's personality traits based on word choice and grouping, and used their scores, visualized through five custom emojis, as the basis for generating a custom poster-sized portrait, printed in minutes.


Users took home unique, personalized portraits.

Minutes after the interview, the user's portrait is printed out in gallery size, at the back of the booth. Each portrait was different based on each user's results. 

Exhibit-goers waited up to two hours to have Watson discover unexpected truths about themselves, and to take home a personal part of the exhibition, their own portrait.

Designing a photo booth of the future.

We wanted create a futuristic look at a traditional photo booth. With Watson being the focus, we created a elegant, intimate setting for users to get to know the friendly computing system, and vice versa. The white exterior is lined with IBM's signature 8-bar branding, with sliding tinted glass doors. The lights even reacted to users being inside, changing hues via motion sensors.

The user experience of a conversation.

While the user journey is simple, creating a simple expcderience of a conversation meant everything had to be extremely intuitive, natural, yet at the same time informational and thought-provoking.


'Laboratory Chic.'

Museum goers were greeted by IBM brand ambassadors who were dressed in custom designed outfits. Stitched in the front was the Watson logo, and at the back was IBM's famous pictogram.

The Cognitive Photo Booth is currently on tour at IBM events all around the world.

Most recently it stopped by the Vivatech conference in Paris, France.

The Cognitive Photo Booth was key attraction in a larger exhibition: 'IBM Art with Watson: Hidden Portraits'

— an exploration into the hidden personas of some of history's foremost thinkers.

How man sees machine is a well-documented subject. But what about how machine sees man? We asked IBM Watson to show us through data analysis, and in doing that, he uncovered the true nature of seven of the world’s most profound thinkers–Charles Darwin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla, Paul Rand, Josephine Baker and Thomas J Watson. Fifteen artists collaborated with Watson—using insights only Watson could provide—to create an exhibition of portraits that told stories about these historical icons that had never been told before. 

Worldwide Design Director: Sid Tomkins
Creative Direction: Bastien Baumann, Chris Rowson
Art Direction & Design: Justin Au
Executive Producer: David Ross
Creative Technology & App Development: Joe Laquinte, Blake Rutledge
Front-end Development: Joe Laquinte, Addison Rodomeista, Justin Au
Motion Design: Justin Au, ManvsMachine
Director of Photography, Post-production: Geoff Levy
Fabrication & Exhibition Production: TH Productions

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The Cognitive Photobooth

The Cognitive Photobooth

Can a machine know people better than they know themselves? The Cognitive Photo Booth–a key attraction at the exhibition­– showed how Watson can Read More