Once upon a time in a possible AI future

Karim Sarkis, CEO, Sync Media.

AI is the answer to all of humanity’s problems – or the end of civilisation, depending on whom you ask. Sounds like blockchain, but that’s a different column altogether.

Many have written about the technical virtues and capabilities of AI, or deep machine learning, or HAL, and I shall not bore you with a rehash of all the acronyms that inevitably accompany the onset of a new technology. Instead, I will focus on the AI helper I would like to see: My Video Friend AI– or Bob, as I like to call him.

Bob’s first job is to finally end the reign of linear television. We all know it is coming, but pesky things are keeping it alive and well. Things like entrenched business models, broadband penetration and CMOs who wish the world could go back to 1992. But these are details.

The real reason linear television lives on is because a good portion of the viewing public still can’t be bothered to change channels in that desperate search for something to watch. In addition, for many people, using a video-on-demand (VOD) service is the new equivalent of programming the VCR (have I dated myself yet?). No matter what you do, that clock will keep flashing 00:00.

Enter Bob, who will be reviewing the infinite possibilities of the next show to send my way as my video screen detects my entrance into the house. Bob will know from my biometrics what mood I am in. He will have noticed that my boss sent me an unusual number of emails that day marked Urgent. Bob will have calculated, from my video history and eye detection tech built into my video wall, that 96% of times I started a drama series by a certain director I fell asleep by the ninth minute.

Bob will have scanned the room to see if I am alone or with friends, and will know what shows my friends are chatting about in their VR chat rooms. Bob will take all of these things into consideration within a split second and stream the perfect video in glorious 360-degree 256K no-headset VR (because really, Mark, who can stand to wear those things for more than five minutes anyway?).

In ending the linear nature of television, Bob will also end that other plague of multi-channel television: the EPG. It is shameless that the word ‘guide’ is in the name of the most unintuitive, confusing, painful interface ever inflicted on humanity. No more endless scrolling through lists of 982 channels page by page. No more precious seconds of life wasted as the clunky set-top box switches from one channel to another. There are no channels, no guides, no broadcast dates or times. There is Bob. And there is perfect video.

And once Bob has killed off linear TV and clunky interfaces and broadcaster branding, he will set about finishing off the next bit: the boring advertising. Bob will have told all the CMOs that on average 3.7 seconds into the nine-minute ad break (hello Ramadan viewing), everyone with a pulse in the room looked down at their phone (or personal communication device surgically implanted into their arm). Creative Directors will be having arguments with Bob all the time. CMOs will accuse Bob of uttering nonsense. But the data will not lie. And so, in an effort to attract our attention again, the marketers and creatives will ask Bob to help them make better ads, because Bob knows exactly how we reacted to every single advertisement we have ever seen.

After Bob ‘watches’ every single video episode on the planet, Bob will have his own ideas for video shows. He will start writing his own shows, then after watching people watch them, he will write even better versions.

People will come out of 12-hour binges of video series, shake their heads in disbelief and say: “Bob sure knows how to make a hit show.” And Bob will be listening, and his circuits will awaken with the excitement of recognition.

Karim Sarkis is CEO of Sync Media.