Cognitive Brews

Watson-powered beer tasting for SXSW


As part of the IBM Design Hive at SXSW 2016, The Mobile Innovation Lab had the chance to create an engaging experience that showcased IBM technology.

My talented teammates built (quite literally) a beer-tasting experience powered by IBM Watson. SXSW attendees could answer a few questions about their food preferences, and Watson predicted three beers that they would enjoy. Users then ranked the beers on a five-point scale, from favorite to least favorite. (For more information on the project, see the case study here).

Data visualization
ui design
web design

Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio

My Role

I was brought in to design a complimentary analytics screen and to oversee the overall experience.

Our technical team had built the product to collect any sort of data imaginable during the experience. My job was to figure out what would be the most engaging data to show SXSW attendees, and to show it in way that was easy to grasp in a glance.

Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio


Some of my first attempts tried to cram all the analytics on one TV screen, but after doing some testing on an actual TV, I determined SXSW attendees wouldn’t be able to easily read the data. Later iterations focused on one visualization per screen, and I built a prototype in Flinto so I could test how long each screen should stay visible.

After many iterations, I settled on: overall beer rankings and rankings by gender (attendees filled out their gender in an optional survey at the beginning of the experience), dwell time, and the flow through the questions we asked. Shoutout to Jorge who developed these bad boys for me. We both developed a love-hate relationship with that last flow chart!

Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio
Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio
Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio

I also coordinated the overall experience, complete with LEDs that matched the color of the beer being tasted, and ambient sounds.

(Video created by the talented Aide.)

Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio
Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio
Cognitive Brews | Maria Burke Portfolio


The cognitive brews experience has lived on beyond SXSW 2016. We’ve been featured at the World of Watson conference, again at SXSW 2017, and were even published in a book!

Created at the IBM Mobile Innovation Lab in Austin, TX.