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Machine Intelligence Meets the Cloud

HAL gets a job in the digital media businessA new career opportunity for HAL?

All the recent talk about Skype's new Translator, following on from the ballyhoo at IBC 2014 about virtualisation, software-defined networks and workflows, cloud infrastructure, and [insert your favourite buzzword here], led me to revisit a fascinating presentation made by Dr Mike Lynch at an IET / Royal Television Society Joint Public Lecture in May of this year (click here to view the lecture).  In addition to his thought-provoking observations on such topics as prediction, change and uncertainty ("Now is the period of greatest change"), and privacy ("The short thought on privacy is that it's gone, so get over it"), Dr Lynch demonstrated some nascent technologies that employ machine intelligence in the digital media arena.  For example, if a smartphone's software can 'understand' the physical charcteristics of a real environment on some level, it can then place virtual media elements into that space in a logical and interactive manner.

This got me thnking about other ways in which machine intelligence could have an impact on our industry.  Up to now, most of the discussion has been about virtualising existing media processing and distribution functionality and moving these processes out of the content owners' facilities and into the cloud.  But this migration will surely lead to new capabilities, such as:

  • Allowing the viewer to create a customised compilation of scenes (e.g. every car chase featuring an Aston Martin)...  Similar to what you might be able to find on YouTube, but built on-the-fly each time. 
  • Use of machine intelligence by content publishers for 'complianece' (a.k.a. censorshipship) tasks.
  • Combing intelligence embedded in a consumer's device and cloud-based resources to provide parental (and perhaps spousal?) control ("I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you watch that.")

I'm sure I'm not the first person to think about any of this, and as HAL would say, "I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this before.So I'm expecting (hoping) to receive feedback telling me that these kinds of things are already in development.  Your comments are very welcome! 

In the meantime, my best wishes for the Holiday season and the Brave New World of 2015 and beyond.

HAL image by Wikipedia user MorningLemon, based on original art by user Cryteria / CC-BY 3.0