If using artificial intelligence to analyze social media hashtags to create "holiday-flavored" rum doesn't shock you in a profound and strange way, well, maybe you're Richard Branson.
Virgin Holidays, the travel subsidiary of the British Billionaire's company, has used IBM's famous Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer Watson to cultivate flavor profiles allegedly reminiscent of human experiences. In total, the computer analyzed more than 15 million social-media posts, looking at hashtags like #beachlife, #lovetotravel, and others evocative of vacationing.
Scouring these posts, Watson captured the most predominant positive emotions, such as happy, excited, curious, and adventurous.
Using that mass of data, Ian Burrell, a global rum ambassador, helped to pair these emotions with rum flavor notes: curious with vanilla, adventurous with allspice, and happy with vanilla, for example.
"It was my first time collaborating with a super computer to create a distinct blend, so we ensured a high level of quality control to deliver a premium palette experience," said Burrell. "Tough job but someone has to do it."
The rum may not be the first time the worlds of computer science and booze have collided, but it is certainly the most ambitious. Last year, British brewing company IntelligentX created what it dubbed the "first beer brewed by artificial intelligence," by continually modifying its recipe based on consumer feedback.
Manhattan-based online retailer Verve Wine has plans to integrate algorithms into its business that will help people select a prospective bottle of wine for their next purchase.
However, neither of those projects involved one of the most sophisticated computers in the world.
Supplies of Virgin's Holiday Spirit rum are limited, with only 800 bottles available. However, I don't think we needed Watson to tell us that, hey, maybe vacation tastes kinda like coconut.