M&E Connections

Veritone Execs: Company Upbeat on New AI Opportunities, CES Experience

Veritone continues to see new opportunities for artificial intelligence (AI) – both its own software and platform business offerings, as well as the AI sector overall – and was pleased with how its recent sponsorship of the first AI Marketplace at CES went, according to company executives.

“Outside of just the proliferation and the use of AI everywhere,” Ryan Steelberg, the company’s president, told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) Jan. 19 that he was “impressed” at CES earlier in the month with the “advancement and investment” on display that has been made in the robotics and drones sectors in particular.

Robotic technology and drone-based technology are, after all, “consuming or producing new content – whether that’s audio that they’re capturing or high-def video from the drones,” he noted. As a result, he said, we’re “now having a whole other wave of explosion of content creation, which ultimately is going to have to be organized and indexed … very similar to what we’re doing in media and entertainment.”

He added: “The explosion of these new peripherals – these new devices, these new robots, these new drones … are, in effect, producing petabytes and petabytes and petabytes of new data which we need to sift through, and we believe only AI machine learning will make sense of that.” He called it an “ever-increasing problem set that we can help tackle.”

While the “aerial drone ecosystem has been around for a while, obviously, it’s going through a whole other level” now, in fields including agriculture and real-time analytics being used for applications that include gauging the level of oil in tankers and storage facilities, he said. In the past, there “either was no insight” like that available or it was “cost-prohibitive,” he said. But, thanks at least in part to, “increased battery life” on drones and increased capacity, it’s become a “much more viable commercial enterprise,” he said, pointing to advancements made in submersible drones as “exciting” also.

Drones are “right in our wheelhouse,” he went on to tell MESA, noting that because they capture and transmit media and data, they’re “no different than a set-top box or a web stream producing content or a data stream.” Therefore, Veritone is “actively pursuing that space” and has “a few projects” in the works that he said, “we really can’t discuss today.” Collectively, drones, security cameras, body cameras and dash cameras in police vehicles are all “going to be harvested and ingested to create intelligence for various applications,” he said, adding: “We look at the drone and robotic technology as a very, very important production source of new data and media.”

The CES AI Marketplace was “pretty diverse,” he went on to note, saying there were “all kinds of companies” that took part in it. Exhibitors ran the gamut from IFLYTEK, a Chinese developer of speech and AI technology, to Yamaha Motor Co. But the marketplace was “pretty much dominated by software-based AI groups” and robotics, as well as “derivate robotics drone technology,” Steelberg said.

Asked why, in its first time participating in CES, Veritone decided to sponsor the first AI Marketplace, he explained: “We want to support this space. As much as we want to help monetize it and drive innovation and build a good market for ourself, we want to support the ecosystem as a whole. There’s lots and lots of different companies out there. It shouldn’t be dominated – and I don’t believe it will be — overly dominated by just four or five companies.

“So, having a thriving development community investing in building new products or services built on AI and taking advantage of AI machine learning is critical for all of us – both from the commercial side/the public-sector side and really the civilian side. So, that for us was exciting. We’re obviously on the back end, trying to continue to build up our brand awareness, which I think we have done a good job at and we’re going to continue to stay disciplined on that.”

John Ward, Veritone marketing VP, and his team also “did a very good job of sort of aligning our corporate messaging” at CES, Steelberg said, adding there’s a lot of groups his company’s helping to “nurture and endorse as part of this AI revolution,” and, “hopefully, we can convert many of those to partners and clients of ours in the future.”

“Anecdotally, we heard” the AI Marketplace was “one of the hotter spots of the show,” Steelberg said. But “it took a while to sort of let people know how amazing some of the stuff was” there, he conceded. Eventually, traffic at the AI Marketplace increased, he said.

What might have, amusingly enough, helped drive traffic to the AI Marketplace was the widely-reported power outage in the Central Hall Jan. 10. “If anything, it drove more people” to the AI Marketplace, Ward said, noting the AI Marketplace’s hall didn’t lose power.

There’s also a chance the AI Marketplace can become as big a part of CES as the Smart Home Marketplace, Ward said, noting the latter was once a “very tiny” space with a relatively small number of exhibit booths, but has “grown to be one of the major halls” of the show. He added: “We feel AI is just going to grow tremendously and we want to be on the front end of that.”

Veritone was also “pleased with the exposure” it received from CES and “the fact that we had people coming to our meeting space just because they saw our logo and they wanted to know what we were all about,” Ward said, adding: “I would say it was a good success for us as our first foray into CES.”

The speaking panels that Veritone participated in at CES, meanwhile, “continued to also drive thought leadership” for the company on AI, Steelberg said. Although Veritone didn’t have a booth of its own at the show, just an office space for meetings in the AI Marketplace, he told us: “We’ll always consider” a booth for the future at CES, as well as potentially presentations at the booths of partner companies, like it does at NAB.

The company, meanwhile, is out to make AI and the applications that people are actually using “readily accessible and extensible for any type of media and entertainment use case,” Steelberg told MESA. “We all collectively need to continue to … lower [the] bar” for companies to use AI, and “that bar is not necessarily just price,” but also the “feasibility and usability of these technologies, so we can actually start using them at high scale,” he said.

He went on to say that AI companies like Veritone, Amazon, Google and IBM are all “very, very focused on making this technology truly accessible and impactful [in not only] solving real problems today, but also” on creating a “seamless pathway to take it to the next level, which is really transformation of the media itself, which we believe is close at hand.”

Veritone now has “several hundred” media and entertainment broadcasting clients and media clients that use its single platform, either through an application program interface (API) or through its user interface “for a whole multitude of use cases,” he said.

In a presentation at the annual Needham Growth Conference in New York Jan. 18, Veritone CFO Peter Collins explained that his company’s two “go-to-market strategies” include delivering purpose-built applications to industries rich in unstructured data via a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering and an open platform allowing third parties to build their own cognitive AI engines and applications via a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering.

Underscoring just how large of an opportunity AI presents, Collins cited a recent Bloomberg study predicting the technology “will boost GDP globally by $15 trillion or more by 2030.” Today, AI is mainly being used in three areas: for operational efficiency, new product innovation and decision support, he said.