Warner to Use AI to Assist with Content Decisions

Warner Bros. has become one of the first major studios to begin using artificial intelligence (AI) when considering content decisions, including casting, in movie and TV productions.

Warner Bros. Pictures International inked a deal with Cinelytic to use its software platform — an AI-driven project management system that was launched for the motion picture industry last year. WBPI will leverage the software to inform decision making around content and talent valuation to support release strategies.

The move comes after Warner finished with 13.8% of the 2019 domestic film market, second behind Disney/Fox’s record 38% market share. Warner hopes the AI initiative will help generate more unexpected box office hits such as Joker.

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Launched in 2016, Cinelytic has slowly generated traction in Hollywood, included reported deals with STX, Ingenious Media and Productivity Media.

Specifically, the software combines AI and cloud-based technologies to enable studio executives to make faster, and better-informed, decisions throughout the content value chain by providing comprehensive data, predictive analytics and project management tools in an integrated online platform.

The platform reduces executives’ time spent on so-called “low-value, repetitive tasks” and instead focuses on generating insights for packaging, greenlighting, marketing and distribution decisions in real time.

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“In our industry, we make tough decisions every day that affect what — and how — we produce and deliver films to theaters around the world, and the more precise our data is, the better we will be able to engage our audiences,” Tonis Kiis, SVP of Warner Bros. Pictures International Distribution, said in a statement.

Samsung Electronics Unveils 2020 QLED 8K TV Lineup, New AI Capabilities at CES

Samsung Electronics Jan. 5 introduced its QLED 8K line on the eve of CES 2020 in Las Vegas. The lineup features AI-based innovations that make the viewing experience more immersive, and connected features that make consumer lifestyles more integrated, according to Samsung.

The 8K lineup leverages the power of machine learning to optimize audio, video and smart capabilities, and it offers a range of smart features powered by Tizen, so consumers can more easily interact with their home and mobile devices, and access new features such as Samsung Health.

“2020 will be a tipping point for our industry, the year when 8K broke into the mainstream as the definitive viewing experience,” said Joe Stinziano, head of the consumer electronics business at Samsung Electronics America. “Our 2020 8K lineup delivers that experience. Its unprecedented immersive capabilities and unparalleled smart features empower consumers to pursue their passions more simply and more comprehensively than ever before.”

Every Samsung 8K TV shipping today meets the requirements of the 8K Association’s Certified Test Specifications and carries the CTA 8K Ultra HD Display Definition logo, according to Samsung.

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This year, consumers will also be able to enjoy and stream AV1 codec videos filmed in 8K on QLED 8K TVs. All Samsung TVs in the 2020 8K line will ship with this capability built-in. And, Samsung is working with partners like YouTube to create pathways for streaming native 8K content.

In addition to building out the 8K ecosystem across the industry, the QLED 8K lineup helps consumers to experience the power of 8K resolution even when they’re watching lower resolution content.

Based on powerful Samsung semiconductor technology, the Q950’s next-generation Quantum Processor 8K features improved AI-based upscaling capabilities that use machine learning to analyze and identify the characteristics of individual pixels. It then restores different elements of the image to create a pristine 8K picture, regardless of the content source.

The Q950 also leverages the power of AI to ensure that nothing distracts viewers from their content. While other TV sensors can only adjust screen brightness based on the ambient light within the room, Adaptive Picture analyzes the brightness of the room, as well as the scene being played on the screen, to optimize brightness and maintain contrast in high-glare environments.

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Addressing the speed of the internet connection, AI ScaleNet uses cutting-edge compression to significantly cut the amount of bandwidth needed to stream content. This helps consumers enjoy a higher quality image, and a smoother streaming experience, even if they have a slower internet connection, according to Samsung. Samsung Electronics continues to work with Amazon on this feature, utilizing AI ScaleNet from standard definition to 4K in Prime Video.

On the audio side, the Q950 features speakers on every side of the display, as well as woofers in the back to deliver virtual 5.1 channel surround-sound. Samsung takes this hardware to the next level, with sound features that further enhance sound immersion. If consumers are watching a movie that hasn’t been mixed for three-dimensional sound, the audio won’t track with the movement onscreen. Object Tracking Sound+ solves this problem by detecting the movement of objects on the screen and adjusting the audio accordingly. Also, with Active Voice Amplifier (AVA), the Q950 can enhance voice clarity in response to ambient noise like a blender or vacuum cleaner. Finally, Q-Symphony creates a more dynamic soundscape by pairing the Q950’s speaker with the audio of a Samsung Q series soundbar, including the 2020 CES Best of Innovation honoree, the Q800.

In 2020, Bixby, Samsung’s AI assistant, is getting even smarter, through a new ability that leverages Ambient Mode to change the mood of a room. For example, if they tell Bixby to create a calm atmosphere, the TV will then display a relaxing backdrop on the screen. In addition, Samsung will be integrating Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant directly into its premium lineup of 2020 Samsung Smart TVs, including the Q950.

The Q950 features a new and improved Universal Guide that uses AI-based algorithms to analyze the type of content that consumers watch, as well as the services and TV channels that they tend to use, to offer recommendations uniquely customized to their specific habits and tastes.

With the launch of Samsung Health on TV later this year, consumers can enjoy a fitness and wellness solution that allows them to see their activities, track their progress, and pursue shared fitness goals with the entire family. Plus, they will have access to free and exclusive content from leading partners, including Calm, FitPlan, Jillian Michaels, Echelon, Obe Fitness, and Barre 3 and more.

Other features include Multi-View, which helps consumers to simultaneously enjoy content on their mobile devices and their TVs, by mirroring the phone screen onto the TV screen even while it is playing TV content, and Tap View, which allows consumers to mirror their phone screens by touching their mobile device to the TV. Finally, Digital Butler brings together both connected and non-connected devices in one dashboard. It uses infrared technology so that consumers can manage legacy devices near the TV.

Competitors Sony and Microsoft Ink Entertainment Innovation Partnership

Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. May 16 announced that the two companies will partner on new innovations to enhance customer experiences in their direct-to-consumer entertainment platforms and AI solutions.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed by the parties, the two companies will explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services. In addition, the two companies will explore the use of current Microsoft Azure datacenter-based solutions for Sony’s game and content-streaming services.

“By working together, the companies aim to deliver more enhanced entertainment experiences for their worldwide customers,” read a joint press release. “These efforts will also include building better development platforms for the content creator community.”

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As part of the memorandum of understanding, Sony and Microsoft will also explore collaboration in the areas of semiconductors and AI. For semiconductors, this includes potential joint development of new intelligent image sensor solutions. By integrating Sony’s image sensors with Microsoft’s Azure AI technology in a hybrid manner across cloud and edge, as well as solutions that leverage Sony’s semiconductors and Microsoft cloud technology, the companies aim to provide enhanced capabilities for enterprise customers. In terms of AI, the parties will explore incorporation of Microsoft’s advanced AI platform and tools in Sony consumer products, to provide highly intuitive and user-friendly AI experiences.

“Sony is a creative entertainment company with a solid foundation of technology. We collaborate closely with a multitude of content creators that capture the imagination of people around the world, and through our cutting-edge technology, we provide the tools to bring their dreams and vision to reality,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony, in a statement. “PlayStation itself came about through the integration of creativity and technology. Our mission is to seamlessly evolve this platform as one that continues to deliver the best and most immersive entertainment experiences, together with a cloud environment that ensures the best possible experience, anytime, anywhere. For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content. Additionally, I hope that in the areas of semiconductors and AI, leveraging each company’s cutting-edge technology in a mutually complementary way will lead to the creation of new value for society.”

“Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in a statement. “Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.”

Cinelytic Gets $2.25 Million Investment

Data analytics firm Cinelytic announced a $2.25 million investment by Thailand’s T&B Media Global.

“The deal will enable Cinelytic to further advance its leading role in AI driven decision support for the entertainment industry,” according to a company press release.

Cinelytic combines artificial intelligence and cloud-based technologies to enable entertainment industry professionals to make faster, and better-informed, decisions throughout the content value chain by providing comprehensive data, predictive analytics and project management tools in an integrated online platform, according to the release.

“We are witnessing a seismic shift in the entertainment industry: while rapid technological advances have disrupted the traditional entertainment industry, they have also created huge opportunities,” said Tobias Queisser, co-founder and CEO of Cinelytic, in a statement. “By using the latest in machine learning, and cloud-based technology, we are able to provide the entertainment industry with game-changing insights in real-time. This investment enables us to expand Cinelytic’s platform for Film, TV and explore further cross verticals. We are delighted to have partnered with T&B Media Global who share and support our vision.”

“Companies in industries across the world have to begin with a data driven approach,” said Dr. Jwanwat Ahriyavraromp, CEO of T&B Media Global, in a statement. “Understanding the pros and cons of all scenarios should be foundational to any enterprise, and the same applies to entertainment. Cinelytic aggregates massive amounts of entertainment-based data and uses AI to provide invaluable analysis of potential returns for storytellers. It is a tool that will revolutionize how stories get told and launched into the market. We are very pleased to help be a part of this future-forward solution.”

LG’s AI TVs Incorporate Google Assistant

LG Electronics USA May 8 announced the launch of the Google Assistant on its 2018 AI TV line-up.

This includes both LG OLED TVs and LG Super UHD TVs with ThinQ AI, which will deliver AI features operated directly through the TV’s remote control with no additional hardware required, the company reported.

The Google Assistant combines with LG’s webOS-based ThinQ AI to enable 2018 LG TVs to deliver “an intuitive AI experience that uses natural language commands to control TV functions, seamlessly discover and play content and control TV settings,” according to LG.

“With the Google Assistant, you can ask it to manage daily tasks, access information, control compatible smart home devices including lighting, appliances and much more,” an LG press release reads.

LG and Google are collaborating to develop a range of features and are working to expand consumer accessibility in multiple languages, the company announced. LG’s 2018 AI TVs can perform hundreds of voice commands utilizing the company’s own open smart platform as well as the built in Google Assistant. With LG’s ThinQ, users can immediately connect to external gaming consoles and soundbars, switch picture mode or turn the TV off at set times.

LG 2018 AI TVs can retrieve information or switch to a channel that offers the content requested by the viewer, according to the release. “Switch to Discovery channel” instantly connects users to information about future travel destinations. Users can learn more about their desired films by saying a character’s or actor’s name. They can tell the TV to “search for the soundtrack of this movie” or “turn off the TV when this program is over” without needing to schedule a time.

With the Google Assistant built in, LG’s 2018 AI TVs allows users to manage different tasks, find answers or control smart home devices, the LG release noted. Users can press and hold the mic button to ask for information such as the weather forecast, nearby local businesses, or check the score of a game without disturbing the viewing experience. Users can also display Google Photos and access devices such as robotic vacuum cleaners, thermostats, air purifiers and smart lighting.

“With the Google Assistant now available natively in 2018 LG AI TVs, LG has truly elevated the TV to a whole new level of AI adoption in the home,” said Tim Alessi, head of home entertainment product marketing at LG Electronics USA. “Beyond the unrivaled picture quality that LG TVs deliver, LG’s partnership with Google creates a true visual hub for information and connectivity in the home. LG has only begun to scratch the surface of what we will innovate in the AI ecosystem working collaboratively with cutting-edge, industry leading partners such as Google.”

LG’s 2018 AI TVs also work with existing Google Assistant devices such as Google Home and other smart speakers with the Assistant built in, allowing users to send voice commands directly from a separate Assistant device to their LG TV. TV owners can speak to other Assistant devices to control TV functions such as volume, play, pause, start, stop, fast forward, channel selection and content search.  LG’s 2018 AI-enabled TVs will work with other Google Assistant devices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, with further expansion to be announced later this year.

CNBC Coming to Apple Smart Speakers

Business news network CNBC Jan. 24 announced it will begin offing audio news briefs for HomePod, Apple’s in-home wireless speaker, beginning Jan. 26.

HomePad, along with Google Assistant, Amazon Echo Dot, and other AI-enabled CE devices, are projected to push the speech and voice-recognition tech market to $18 billion in revenue by 2023.

HomePod users can simply say, “Hey Siri, play business news” and the CNBC audio news brief will immediately provide news updates throughout the business day, weekend look ahead features from CNBC anchors and reporters, as well as market commentary from CNBC’s on-air stocks editor Bob Pisani from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Users can also hear business news with the CNBC audio news app on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.