MTh Director Mathew Cullen Visualizes Supercomputer’s Thinking Process for IBM’s “Watson M.D.”
Director Mathew Cullen and a dedicated team of Mirada artists created intelligent art for “Watson M.D.,” a :30 spot for IBM that illustrates how the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer’s deep analytics can assist physicians in diagnosing patients. Produced for ad agency Ogilvy & Mather/New York, the spot features imagery derived from medical visualizations, scientific literature, live action photography, pathogen analysis and more, presented through an algorithmic animation engine developed by Motion Theory sister company Mirada that mirrors Watson’s approach to data analysis.
“Watson M.D.” illustrates the challenge physicians face in diagnosing patients as the body of medical knowledge doubles every five years. Enter Watson, IBM’s supercomputer that can understand questions and intent, scour millions of lines of human language and return precise, highest-probability answers in less than three seconds.
Using the most human of interactions – the doctor/patient interview, the spot shows how Watson approaches the problem, using millions of images to represent possibilities as they flow through the analysis and between the actors, from action to action, question to question, all the while visibly sorting, sifting, shrinking, selecting, comparing, casting aside or moving to the forefront until the process is complete and most probable diagnosis identified (Lyme disease, from an insect bite).
Mathew Cullen and the production crew captured the images, which number well over a million, in several ways. Cullen and DP Guillermo Navarro shot with two RED cameras and an ARRI Alexa camera to capture the Watson story. They shot insects, livestock, plants and other elements live on greenscreen. They licensed medical procedures for the young actor in the spot to get medical visualizations of the boy’s actual anatomy – CAT scans, X-rays, brain stem eye visualizations, and more; photos of his family members to illustrate medical history, medical literature showing research on actual potential causes and conditions of the scenario, images of pathogens, viruses, allergens and bacteria at the root of the possible causes, and more.
Rather than create a simple particle system and attach those images to it, Mirada, under the direction of VFX Supervisor Jonah Hall, developed an animation system driven by a collating and sorting procedure to enable the images to appear organically, mirroring Watson’s data analysis process. They also created a system that determined where the camera was, where the patient and doctor were, and defined areas where images could and could not go. There was almost no keyframe animation in the spot as nearly all of the movement of images was generated algorithmically.
Production on “Watson M.D.” took just four weeks and included consulting with medical practitioners, a three-day live action shoot, developing the animation engine and integrating visual effects, and editing.