Netflix Max

Combine Siri and Hal 9000, and what do you get? A virtual cinephile with the personality of a game show host, according to Netflix.

The company has just introduced Max, a new program that helps users decide what to watch. While Netflix already offers tailored recommendations based on their sophisticated algorithms, Max helps narrow down those options by asking viewers what they’re in the mood for right now. Learn more about Max and see him (it?) in action after the jump.

Described by Netflix as the rumored child of Siri and Hal 9000 (yikes), Max can offer film recommendations in a variety of ways. In one “experience,” users rate titles within a genre to help Max figure out their needs. In others, subscribers choose between two very different movie stars (e.g., Bruce Willis or Michelle Williams) or categories (e.g., Talking Animals or Tortured Geniuses). Or Max may skip the questions entirely and simply offer a suggestion based on Netflix’s knowledge of a viewer’s previous viewing habits. Once Max settles on a title, viewers can accept or decline, or ask him to give a 30-second pitch about the movie or show.

Arguably, Max doesn’t really do anything Netflix’s recommendation engine doesn’t already do. He draws from the same data, after all. But his more proactive approach seems like it could be useful on days when I’m feeling more indecisive. Despite the fact that I have enough titles in my queue to keep me watching for weeks without stopping, I sometimes struggle to figure out which one film I’m in the mood for. An upbeat voice telling me what to watch could encourage me to make better use of my account.

But it could be some time yet before most Netflix subscribers get to put Max to the test. Currently, his services are only available on PlayStation 3, though if users like him there he’ll roll out to other devices in the near future.

Watch Pedro Freitas, senior manager of product innovation at Netflix, demonstrate Max’s usefulness below.

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