Avid, Microsoft, Ooyala See Huge Benefits from Enabling Cloud Workflows with AI

NEW YORK — Media and entertainment companies stand to see significant benefits from enabling their cloud workflows with artificial intelligence (AI), according to representatives from Avid Technology, Microsoft and Ooyala.

“There are a great number of use cases” for AI when it comes to cloud workflows “that are going on and I think media and entertainment can borrow a lot of these as we move from archive and indexing and advertising to a new space where we really [move] from mass media to personal media,” Martin Wahl, principal program manager of Cloud AI & Cognitive Services at Microsoft, said July 24.

He was speaking during a panel session called “Enabling Cloud workflows with AI” at the Entertainment Production in the Cloud (EPIC) conference, part of the Media & Entertainment (M&E) Day at the Microsoft Conference Center.

The 2018 M&E Day also included Content Protection Summit East and Smart Content Summit East, providing M&E technology teams valuable insights into the creation, production, distribution, security and analysis of content.

Wahl, who works with media and other Microsoft industry partners, pointed to “digital agents that customize the experience for you” as one example of a significant use case for AI. “It changes everything — whether you’re working on a mobile phone or you’re using a web-based application or even smart TVs,” he said, adding: “The entire experience that you have between you and your customers can change based on learned experiences.”

Similarly, in the production space, he asked rhetorically, “if you’re answering a lot of the same questions, why not turn that into a bot?” He explained: “This is quite easily done now with our technology” by taking a manual of questions and FAQs, uploading it, and enabling, as an example, other members of one’s organization to ask questions. The bot “learns and answers questions, allowing you to do a little bit more interesting work” because it’s just freed up your time, he noted.

Microsoft also sees things in the retail space where “we’re doing upselling and learning what you’ve done in the past and trying to make recommendations to you” by using AI, he said, adding: “That also can be used in a media context as well. Certainly, everybody knows about being recommended [content] based on what you’ve watched in the past. But how about [recommendations] based on other habits that you might have or other things that you do or the people that you are and the job that you have? So, we are seeing quite a lot of new AI workflows that are coming in that are going well beyond just taking my archive content and identifying the content, which is all very interesting and very exciting.”

Avid clients say they have a lot content and “they would like to think of [that content] as assets,” but there is often one small problem: they “don’t know what’s in the archive,” Craig Dwyer, senior director for Avid’s Global Center of Excellence, said. Applying an AI index, however, can “make that content discoverable,” he noted.

There is also a lot of interest among Avid customers in “being able to make a better-quality product,” and AI can help, according to Dwyer. Companies can use AI to analyze data and then make content recommendations based on that info, he said, adding increased personalization of video content could result in “some real uplift in the engagement” around that content.

There are also “some interesting applications that news organizations are wrestling with [regarding] how they verify content,” he said, pointing to the increase seen in “automatically-generated content” that’s being done at scale. “That actually is a very big issue that I don’t know quite how we tackle” at this point, he said, but added: “There’s definitely some interest in the news field around providing watermarking and authentication.”

Indexing a company’s archived content and then “intelligently monetizing” it and automating the process stand as additional benefits to using AI, according to Emily Hopson-Hill, VP of services at Ooyala. “You want to automate that process as much as possible” and add social media monitoring, she said. AI is also helpful when it comes to media production localization, she said, referring to speech-to-text.

Meanwhile, it’s “very early days” for “fully automated production” using AI, which she called “the best use case I’ve come across” for the technology so far. “They have it working but not well” just yet, she said, explaining AI can be used to learn what events were planned around sports, for example: “Not soccer” but “low-subscription sports that still have an audience but not one you can justify a full production team on.” Once perfected, this stands to “enable a whole bunch of content that right now is not sufficiently monetized [and] would be worth doing,” she said.

One lingering challenge for the industry when it comes to using AI is “moving content to the cloud to have it analyzed because” companies tend to “have so much of it,” Microsoft’s Wahl said. Microsoft executives have already been discussing the need to “move AI to the edge” — enabling companies to “analyze basic stuff” on premises and then “only move to the cloud that which really requires a higher level of analytics,” and that’s something that can indeed be done, he said.

At the recent Microsoft Build and Inspire conferences, for example, the company “demonstrated the use of drones that could find faces in the drone and then they’ll only send the faces that you’re looking for up to the cloud to be analyzed.” So, he explained, the drone “wasn’t sending the entire video stream up” to the cloud – just the content users needed. “I think the media industry is going to love” that ability, he predicted.

The 2018 Media & Entertainment Day was presented by Microsoft, with sponsorship from IBM Watson Media, Amazon Web Services, IBM, LiveTiles, Microsoft Azure, NAGRA, NeuLion, Ooyala, EIDR, GrayMeta, MarkLogic, Qumulo, Avid, Cloudian, SoftServe and TiVo. The event was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA), the Hollywood IT Society (HITS) and the Smart Content Council.

Click here for audio of the “Enabling Cloud workflows with AI” presentation.