Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Futurist Friday: Chatting about Art with IBM Watson

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Museum chatbots are a bit of an obsession of mine right now, as is artificial intelligence, so finding a project that combines these two technologies made my week. 

This story in AdWeek reports that IBM Watson (the program that famously beat champion Ken Jennings at Jeopardy) has been used to power an AI chatbot that converses with visitors to the Pinacoteca de São Paulo Museum. The program draws on data from the museum archives, news files, and the internet to answer visitors’ questions about art in the galleries. The video below gives you a feeling for the resulting interactions:

This application brings us one step closer to the future I riffed on in a post last year, one in which AI-enabled chatbots draw on museum data so that visitors can converse with historical figures or with the art itself. As staff of the Pinacoteca note, this kind of engagement may bring in some people who up to this point felt that museums were “not for them.” 

To learn more about the future of museum chatbots, visit the Alliance Resource Center in MuseumExpo at the AAM Annual Meeting May 6-9. Staff of The Studio from the Carnegie Museums of Pittburgh will be on hand to demonstrate AndyBot, a chatbot designed to help visitors find activities and collect stamps at the four Carnegie Museums throughout this summer.

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