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Princess Leia and Ridley Scott Reintroduce the World to Artifical Intelligence in IBM's Oscars Ads

'Obsolete' robots will live tweet the Academy Awards

Two ads will air during Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony. Image courtesy of IBM Watson

Here's what millions of Star Wars fans around the world want to know: What has General Leia Organa been up to since helping destroy the Starkiller Base and defeat the evil First Order (for now)?

We won't know that until the next chapter of J.J. Abrams' series reboot hits theaters in 2017, but in the meantime, Carrie Fisher has been counseling some sadly obsolete robots.

In an extended version of "Coping With Humans," one of a pair of ads IBM will air during Sunday's Academy Awards, Fisher helps a group of metallic relics accept that they are not, in fact, the droids we're looking for. Why? Because these bots, unlike IBM's Watson, simply can't fathom the prospect of working directly with humans. They'd rather focus on their plans for world domination.

The campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, also includes a conversation between Watson and another sci-fi icon: Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott. In this extended version of the 30-second spot that will run during the Oscars telecast, Scott and Watson discuss the ethics of artificial intelligence and the value of visual communications.

The two spots are only the beginning of IBM's attempts to reintroduce the cognitive business unit to a broader audience following its October 2015 launch. Viewers can visit the campaign landing page for all related videos as well as links to Watson apps and demonstrations of its specific capabilities.

"Watson is doing lots of things in many different industries," Ann Rubin, vp of branded content and global creative at IBM, told Adweek. "This goes well beyond things you've seen before, from helping oncologists make good choices to assisting educators in the classroom—helping vets handle pet health, empowering financial planners to make better decisions, etc."

The Fisher spot uses nerdy humor to illustrate a very real business challenge. "IDC estimates that by 2018, half of all consumers will interact with cognitive computing services on a regular basis," said Rubin. "We like to use the word 'outthink.' … Watson can outthink any problem. We also call it 'science fact, not science fiction.'"

As part of the extended digital campaign, 10 individual bots have one-on-one sessions with Fisher in which they inadvertently reveal their own uselessness. Sinister Bot (voiced by Steve Buscemi) regrets its inability to communicate using sign language.

Duster Bot doesn't realize how dated its manual smog "solution" really is.

Gadget Bot seems stuck on pre-Google Maps geography.

And Trendy Bot doesn't quite live up to its name.

Four of the robots will have their own Twitter handles during the Academy Awards, providing commentary under the #Oscars and IBM's #CognitiveEra hashtags. Rubin said, "They will be tweeting live and reacting to events like the spots running and Chis Rock's monologues. … Carrie Fisher, various influencers and the IBM Watson handle will be interacting with them as well."

Rubin noted that viewers don't have to visit the distant future or a galaxy far, far away to witness the real-world implications of artificial intelligence. "People have a fascination with sci-fi movies, but those are viewed through the creative lens of Hollywood; what's real is what Watson is doing," she said. "[The Academy Awards] are a good venue to help millions of people watching understand, clearly and simply, what Watson can do. The sci-fi lens demystifies the technology and shows how it's changing our lives."

That said, we can confidently make two sci-fi predictions: cognitive computing is the future of many industries, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens won't win any Oscars outside the costume, makeup and special effects categories. (Sorry, nerds.)

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