IBM Watson Retail App (John Mottern/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Published: November 30th, 2015

As we see the footage of hordes of shoppers barrelling down the aisles of a just-opened store on Black Friday, one question comes to mind above all others – why?

That’s what IBM Corp. is looking to help answer with its Watson Trend app, available on iOS devices. The cognitive AI that became Jeopardy champion and has since gone on to provide advice to doctors and lawyers alike is now available to help consumers get the jump on holiday shopping trends. Released ahead of the Black Friday weekend, the app promised to help parents identify the hottest toys before they flew off the shelves and even explain the reason behind the trend.

Using either the app or the website, consumers can see what the emerging trends are in three categories – tech, toys, and health. The service offers images of the trending products and explains why people are talking about it, and offers a “buy now” button to launch a Google search for retailers that still have the item in stock. A line graph rates the product’s trend and offers a prediction about whether it’s getting hotter or dovetailing.Watson Trend

But IBM’s demonstration with Watson is as much to show off to developers as it is to help consumers complete their gift lists. All of the API capabilities tapped to make the app are available on IBM’s open Watson Developer platform. They include: Sentiment Analysis, Keyword Extraction, Concept Tagging, and Taxonomy Classification.

All of those tools allow Watson to scour 10,000 online sources such as social media sites, blogs, forms, comments, and reviews and make sense of the shopping mayhem. It’s a combination of how consumers feel about products they are considering or have already purchased, according to IBM.

Currently, emerging trends include the Nvidia Shield Tablet, a device geared towards gamers that comes with a wireless controller. In the toys category, Star Wars appears to dominate, with both Star Wars Lego and a remote-controlled R2D2 droid trending.

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