Taylor Swift song puts IBM’s Watson to the test

Posted on 29 September 2015
By Ashley Harris
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If the windows in your car could talk! We have all done it. Sitting in the car at a light, belting out the words to our favourite songs playing on the radio, knowing fully well we didn’t have a clue what some of the lyrics were. Before the age of YouTube, we depended on the lyrics printed on the inside the jacket – if you were lucky enough. Now, YouTube provides lyrics in abundance along with background tracks for those of us aspiring Karaoke stars.

So what happens when the “Smartest Machine on Earth” is pitted against the best transcriptionists available? IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer that reads, interprets, learns, and offers advice based on information scanned into its database, was challenged to “listen” to famous songs to determine what the sung words equated to. Who will win the battle of lyrical rendering?

First up, Taylor Swift’s song “Trouble.” Sung at a faster tempo, first verse in this song proved to be “trouble” for Watson. The computer wizard completed the transcription with 4 errors and 6 missed words. With the toughest lyrics, apparently, being “I was in your sights, you got me alone.” Watson transcribed the words to “I was then you say. You got me a loon.”

The human transcriptionists assigned to this task had promised to have never heard the songs before attempting this challenge. Although, given the amount of airplay radio stations gave this song after its premier, that fact seems almost impossible. Nonetheless, the transcriptionists showed no mercy with 0 errors and 0 missed words. Making the battle a clean sweep for the human lyrical masters.

Next up, Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” A perfect score again was given to the Verbalink superstar. Unfortunately for Watson, it didn’t fare well in this challenge either. With 8 errors and 3 words missing, IBM’s brainiest processor seemed to struggle with Elton’s English accent. Bringing the famous verse, “Blue jean baby, LA lady,” to its unfortunate demise. “Blue gene bear bear yeah, Lazy lately yeah,” doesn’t quite top the music charts 7 weeks in a row, like the real thing.

You can check out the full infographic below.