Morgan is a sci-fi horror film about an artificial intelligence experiment that goes horribly awry. Starring Kate Mara and Anya Taylor-Joy, it was released Friday, Sept. 2. As a rather novel marketing ploy, the producers had a real-life artificial intelligence system, IBM's Watson, make a trailer for the film. The end result was a frighteningly good imitation of a human-produced trailer — which, of course, was precisely the goal.
Watson is a computer system with the ability to answer questions posed to it in casual, everyday language. IBM's initial goal was to build a computer capable of winning at Jeopardy!, and it succeeded in 2010, when Watson defeated two human opponents at the game. Since then, it's been used to advise doctors who treat lung cancer, and IBM announced earlier in the month that Watson would soon be attempting to forecast the weather. In the meantime, the AI took some time off to make a movie trailer.
To be clear, Watson wasn't shooting footage or writing dialogue. Morgan was produced by flesh-and-blood humans. But when that process was finished, IBM and the film's producers had Watson examine the finished result, attempt to discern which scenes were the scariest based on a visual analysis, and generate a trailer based on that. Here's what it came up with:
It's not perfect. The trailer has a few too many shots of characters staring at each other blankly, for example. It's also worth noting that Watson didn't create this entirely on its own. A researcher from IBM oversaw the editing process after the relevant scenes were extracted, so there are still some human fingerprints on this trailer. Nevertheless, for a largely machine-produced trailer, Watson's take on Morgan wasn't bad. It would be entirely passable as a regular (that is, human-produced) trailer, and that was clearly the point of having Watson make it in the first place.
Morgan's titular character is a bioengineered human-like being who develops quicker than her scientific overlords can handle, and because this is a horror movie, she starts attacking people. Releasing an AI-created trailer reflects some clever meta-thinking on the part of the film's promoters. Demonstrating that a machine, given the right inputs and technology, can do something as complex as create a movie trailer makes the events of the film itself seem that much more believable.
Thankfully, although Watson can analyze a scene for its emotional content, it can't break out of a laboratory and start killing people.