“Recommended by humans:” HBO pioneers augmented decision support AI


HBO’s latest gambit augments all of those neat rogue algorithms with good old-fashioned human-centered recommendation engine technology.


Reports today at The Verge show how this approach will add features involving what the company calls “recommendations by humans” to its new digital menu.


“An emphasis on human curation doesn’t mean HBO Max is completely forgoing machine learning tools to help build recommendation algorithms,” writes Julia Alexander describing the plan. “Both strategies are used to make browsing through tens of thousands of titles easier.”


Although it might seem like a detail, this move dovetails with some of the newest research on artificial intelligence and its use in consumer applications.


People are getting nervous about unharnessed artificial intelligence technology, calling for ethical and transparent AI. With that in mind, researchers and engineers are going back to the drawing board to see how AI technologies can work with human users, and not just operate on their own out there in the stratosphere.


A design called conversational intelligence is one way to glean human input for AI use. Here, the technology collects information through speech-to-text and adds its own work to the mix to deliver targeted results.


Another way to do this is the HBO model, where the algorithm may factor in actual decisions made by humans.


“HBO Max’s fundamental design goal is to function as an easy-to-use streaming platform that offers good discoverability and wastes as little time as possible for people between opening the app and hitting play,” Alexander writes. “HBO Max doesn’t radically redefine streaming, but the service wants to feel unique in small ways: different-shaped icons, room for show-specific podcasts to exist, and celebrity profiles, which are all attempts to make the product feel less sterile.”


With HBO accurately tapping into the zeitgeist of AI research right now, keep an eye on this development as part of the streaming media wars, to see which horses to back in your portfolio.