Magazine article Variety

How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Media

Magazine article Variety

How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Media

Article excerpt

Killer computers, robot uprisings: Hollywood has long had a deep fascination for artificial intelligence. Even offscreen, AI is increasingly a key part of the media business - but thus far, the reality isn't nearly as dramatic as movies like "Her" or "Ex Machina" make it out to be.

Case in point: You've probably been contacted by AI today without even knowing it. That push notification on your mobile phone, the email newsletter of your favorite website, or the videos recommended to you while binge-watching are being powered by machine-learning algorithms that rely on huge amounts of data to make smart decisions about the media you'd be inclined to consume.

One example for this is YouTube's content recommendations. In its early days, the video-sharing website simply used something called collaborative filtering to tell its users what to watch. If 10 users all had selected the same five videos, then the site predicted that the next user who watched four of these videos would also like the fifth.

Over time, YouTube refined these recommendations, relying on more complex forecasting models, but that still failed to account for the billions of videos available on the service.

"YouTube is just so diverse," explains Cristos Goodrow, the service's VP of engineering for search and discovery. "We believe that for every human being on the planet, there are already 100 hours of videos on YouTube."

The tricky part is to correctly identify those 100 hours. That's why YouTube has embraced deep learning powered by neural networks - which essentially means that the company is using algorithms that simulate the way the human brain works. These algorithms are being trained to make informed decisions about which videos to recommend.

Goodrow developed similar neural networks for big enterprise clients 20 years ago. Back then, the technology was a bit hit or miss, he recalls. "Today, they sud- denly work really well."

The key difference is data, he explains. YouTube's algorithms are being trained against hundreds of billions of data points of viewing behavior - something that simply wasn't possible just a few years ago.

YouTube parent Google has identified AI as a key part of its business going forward, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently telling journalists at a press event that the shiftto AI is as fundamental as the invention of the web or the smartphone.

"We are at a seminal moment in computing," Pichai believes. "We are evolving from a mobile-first to an AI-first world."

Alex Holub, CEO of San Francisco-based AI startup Vidora, agrees. …

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