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A Japanese bakery is using AI to produce ‘romance bread’ targeted at love-averse youth

By Saki Toi, CNN

Tokyo (CNN) — What does love taste like? The answer likely depends on who you ask.

Some may say it’s bittersweet, like dark chocolate. Others might describe it as deliciously decadent, like a sweet cupcake.

Well, one bakery chain in Japan is using technology to find out the answers.

The country’s oldest bakery, Kimuraya, has teamed up with Japanese electronics company NEC Corp to produce what it’s calling “Ren AI Pan” – which translates to “AI Romance Bread.”

NEC and Kimuraya claim the new offering, which comes in five flavors, captures the essence of the feelings many of us associate with love.

Here’s where things get fun. According to a statement issued by the two companies, NEC used its AI technology to analyze conversations from a TV reality dating show, as well as songs that include references to fruit and sweets within their lyrics.

Through this analysis, they identified five key feelings of romance: first encounter, first date, jealousy, heartbreak and mutual love. The bakery then reportedly worked its magic to transform these feelings into various flavors of fluffy steamed bread.

Want to snag a piece? The bread went on sale from February 1 at supermarkets in Japan’s Kanto area and on Kimuraya Bakery’s online store.

How to find the taste of love

As for what led to this unusual pairing, it seems both brands faced a similar challenge: how to increase their appeal among younger generations of Japanese people.

Through market research, Kimuraya discovered a growing number of youth say they are not interested in pursuing romantic relationships. Despite this trend, there was still a strong desire among young people to go on a date, fall in love and end up with a partner.

Recognizing this gap, the company decided to create AI Love Bread, which recreates the flavors of romance to evoke feelings of being in love when they eat it – in effect, inspiring them to inject some of those sensations into their personal lives.

NEC says it utilized two AI technologies for the project: “NEC Enhanced Speech” for converting speech into text and “NEC Data Enrichment” for generating emotion scores from text data.

Using this information, AI selected ingredients representing the emotions associated with love.

To get material to work with, they conducted a “conversation analysis” using 15 hours of extracted footage from a Japanese reality dating show called “Today I Fell In Love.”

From there, AI converted the conversations into text, placing each into one of five categories: a fateful encounter, a date, jealousy, heartbreak or mutual love.

Next, AI extracted the lyrics of approximately 35,000 songs related to love and food from a Japanese database. AI was then used to assign “emotional scores” to the conversations and lyrics to create a visual map that matches the different stages of love to specific foods and flavors.

“Fateful Encounter” bread is flavored with cotton candy, which represents the sweet, airy emotion of the first twinges of love. “Jealousy” tastes like purple sweet potatoes, truffle oil and raisins.

Rounding out the other breads, “First Date” zings with citrus, namely lime and orange peel, and “Mutual Love” is a sweet-and-tart mix of honey, peach and dragonfruit.

Even though these bread concepts were created by technology, there was a still a need for human participation.

“The selection of ingredients was done by AI, but our role was to make them into bread,” said Yuki Kitazawa, a developer at Kimuraya bakery. “We paid attention to the colors used to express romantic emotions visually and aimed for a vibrant and pop appearance for Love Bread.”

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