This year, let a supercomputer do your holiday shopping

by Adam Cecil
This year, let a supercomputer do your holiday shopping

Are you young enough to know how to use a computer but old enough to be baffled by trendy products? If you answered yes, then Oh boy!, do I have the app for you!

Remember Watson, IBM’s supercomputer that won a Jeopardy match? Well, now it’s doing something similarly useful – helping you with your holiday shopping. Available online and as an iOS app, IBM Watson Trend will show you the trendiest toys.

How does it work, exactly? Using digital neural connections or something (sorry, I didn’t pay attention), Watson can read the internet and see what’s trending on Twitter, Facebook, and major e-commerce sites, plus it can check out blogs and product reviews. Watson is smart enough to actually read the tone of the Tweets and reviews, not just the content, so it can tell the difference between "OMG i hope star wars legos spontaneously combust and burn down your x-mas tree" and "OMG star wars legos can literally cure cancer."

IBM Watson Trend will also warn you if there are shortages expected, as is the case with the new Star Wars Lego kits.

IBM’s commercial shows one smart mom grabbing the fictional Beauticorn toy ("It’s a unicorn but beautiful because that’s what girls like, right?" – IBM Executive) for her two daughters, but when you fire up the IBM Watson Trend site or app, you’re more likely to see tech toys like the Apple Watch or a new Samsung TV than anything a 10-year-old girl would want. For that, you’ll need to navigate to the "Toys" tab – there, you’ll find the aforementioned Star Wars Legos, plus Barbie, Minecraft, and Disney Infinity.

Let’s be frank for a moment: if you need an app to tell you that Lego, Barbie, and Minecraft are popular with kids, maybe you shouldn’t have kids (or you should at least listen to the kids you already have). Plus, IBM Watson Trend can only tell you what kids want in aggregate – it can’t tell you what your kid wants. I can see this app being helpful for the weird uncle who would otherwise get the girls a copy of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, but I’m guessing that most parents actually have a pretty good idea of what their kids want for Christmas already.

IBM Watson Trends isn’t a total failure, though: it did introduce me to Pie Face, a game where you get hit in the face with whipped cream.