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Looking for a Movie to Watch? Ask Max!
By Tracey Dowdy
Ever sat down to watch something on Netflix and just couldn’t settle on anything? Me too. Netflix knows that happens, so it’s come up with a clever new way for you find just what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know what that is.
Using their programming algorithms that analyze your movie and TV preferences, they’ve created Max, the "child of Siri and HAL 9000". Instead of simply generating a list of suggestions based on the number of stars you assign, Max wants to talk to you and play some games. For example, you can choose "Celebrity Mood Ring," where Max will suggest two actors based on your viewing history, often from very different genres, and make programming suggestions based on your choice. You may be asked to choose between Parker Posey and John Wayne. Based on your decision, Max may suggest The House of Yes or Hondo.
Another option is to play "Max's Mystery Call" where Max chooses for you. A movie or TV program will automatically play when you click on a wrapped gift-box icon.
The premise behind Max is that Netflix viewers have a variety of tastes. Sometimes you’re in the mood for something intense and suspenseful, sometimes you just need a good laugh. Max is intended to be more intuitive than Netflix’ previous system that made suggestions based on the star ratings you assigned.
“Max seems aware of what you did last session with Netflix, or the time of day, saying, ‘Here’s a lunchtime suggestion,’ …I think part of the magic is going to be using creativity and technology to expand these branches and make them feel more sentient,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president of product innovation.
To create Max, Netflix partnered with Jellyvision. “Our job, as the peanut butter to Netflix’s chocolate, was to bring all of the numbers of the recommendation algorithm to life, layering on top of it a voice, a personality,” said Jellyvision Founder and Chief Executive Harry Gottlieb. “A huge part of the effort was about creating a character, with Max, who is not your typical movie reviewer on ‘Good Morning America.’ It’s more like a friend talking to you.”
Over 150 actors auditioned to be Max’s voice, and writers created thousands of lines of dialogue, which were then strung together to create Max’s personae.
Max is currently available only for those who stream Netflix through their PlayStation 3, though the iPad is rumored to be the next in line.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.
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