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Netflix Introduces a Talking Digital Avatar to Help You Decide What To Watch for the Next 8 Hours

The Future Is Now!


In case Netflix hasn’t already taken over your every waking hour, the company has recently introduced a new feature designed to recommend new shows and movies to viewers.  The service, dubbed Max, is a digital avatar who leads you on different games to find something to watch.  Currently, Max has only been implemented on Netflix on Playstation 3 consoles, and only in the United States, but if the program is successful Netflix plans to put the system on other devices.

The Max avatar talks and asks questions to determine what you should watch.  Sometimes Max will ask the viewer to pick a genre and then rate shows and films in that category to arrive at a recommendation, while in the “Celebrity Mood Ring” game the avatar will provide two celebrities to choose from, and in another game you can choose between two “comically different” and specific tags.  For instance, in the introductory video Netflix provided on the service, Max gives the viewer the choice between Bruce Willis and Michelle Williams, or neither, to get an idea of what to recommend, or a choice between “talking animals” or “tortured genius.”Using the viewer’s answers, Max will then use Netflix’s “predictive content-recommendation algorithms” to suggest something to watch.  In other word, Max uses the same data that gives you those insane categories “because you watched” Gangs of New York and Hey Arnold, but incorporates more direct user input.  Hopefully, this will allow Max to recommend something that not only fits the viewer’s tastes, but what they are in the mood to watch.

The company hopes that if Max’s helpful recommendations and sunny disposition are a success, they can entice viewers to spend more time on the website, and convince more people to continue to use the service. Of course, Max has been compared to other avatars dreamed up by companies to improve their service, like the persistant Clippy the Microsoft Paperclip, but, fortunately, Max is a feature Netflix subscribers can choose to use or to forego.

In the introductory video for the feature, Senior Manager of Product Innovation Pedro Freitas explains Max’s features, and even how the digital avatar will recommend a mystery movie or show based on what it knows about you.  While the service is meant to sound chipper and nice, it is clear that, as Todd Yellin, the VP of Product Innovation, says,

“when intoxicated by past success, Max will get a little cocky and offer a suggestion right away, no questions required.”

I’m reserving judgement on Max until I have tried the games for myself, but based on the video, it seems like this might just be another way for Netflix to tell me to watch Battlestar Galactica. I’m also interested to know if there is a way for Max to take into account whether or not the viewer has already watched something, without having to ask on a case by case basis, since the aim, presumably, would be to find something new to watch on Netflix.  You can check out the introductory video below and decide for yourself whether the newest of Netflix’s many recent changes is something you would be interested in using.

(via Variety)

Previously in Netflix

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