Microsoft's focus has long been on Windows.
But in the modern days of tech, the company is working on many things beside its popular operating system, and into cloud computing, and many others that are powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
While humans have created a lot of beverages, Microsoft also wants a bit of its taste by partnering with Finnish tech company Fourkind and Swedish distillery Mackmyra Whisky.
And the result is a product considered to be the world's first AI-generated whiskey.
According to Angela D’Orazio, Master Blender at Mackmyra:
"For me as a Master Blender, it is a great achievement to be able to say that I’m now also a mentor for the first ever created AI whisky in the world."
Traditionally, alcohol beverages like whiskey, spend their time sitting in wooden casks (all Scotch whiskey must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years).
This process turns the clear liquor into a darker-colored liquid which gives it a unique flavor. The type of wood in the casks and the period the liquid is left untouched, helps create specific recipe.
What this means, there are a near-infinite number of ways to make whiskey.
Master distillers can tweak all these variables, along with the different ingredients used to create the whiskey in the first place to come up with a variety of blends.
The entire process is known to be made and done by humans with specialized set of skills and experience. And here, Microsoft is turning part of the job to machines.
Fourkind developed the AI algorithms involved, explains Microsoft in its announcement. The Redmond-based company then helped Mackmyra in developing a distillery machine learning models which are powered by its Azure cloud platform and Azure cognitive services.
— Microsoft Europe (@MSEurope) May 13, 2019
After making these models well aware of the existing recipes for making whiskey, and with sales data and customer preferences provided by Mackmyra, the information taught the AI which recipes it should create next.
And here, according to Mackmyra, the AI is capable of generating more than 70 million different recipes. And it can highlight those it predicts will be most popular and of the highest quality, based on the cask types that are currently in use.
The distillery notes that the AI's involvement is only for creating recipes, and it’s not actually replacing its Master Blenders' job.
As machines don't have taste buds, the AI essentially ‘hallucinates’ these recipes based on its parameters.
“The work of a Master Blender is not at risk,” insists D’Orazio.
“While the whiskey recipe is created by AI, we still benefit from a person’s expertise and knowledge, especially the human sensory part, that can never be replaced by any program. We believe that the whiskey is AI-generated, but human-curated. Ultimately, the decision is made by a person.”
Microsoft confirmed that Mackmyra’s AI-generated whiskey should be ready for sale starting Autumn 2019.