How Microsoft plans to use AI to impact the entertainment industry

Microsoft's AI software package, Video Indexer

Artificial intelligence (AI) tends to divide public opinion; some favor the developments made in tech, while others worry we’ve gone too far. Tony Emerson, head of global entertainment at Microsoft quashed fears and answered questions from The Drum editor Stephen Lepitak during the Edinburgh Television Festival, when he spoke about the company’s decision to invest in entertainment. He admitted that the company wasn’t actively involved in the sector, but revealed that it works closely with and provides services to entertainment organizations, which explains the launch of its Video Indexer tool.

Video Indexer promises to bolster the entertainment industry by streamlining processes and freeing up manpower. Humans have felt continually threatened by the potential of AI, but Emerson clarified that technology will always act as an assistant to human creativity and will only help to relieve labor-intensive jobs.

“AI is about using machines to do things that typically people did very labor intensively in the past,” says Emerson. “They speed up the process... so we’ll be supplying better tools for creative people to put [projects] together.” Some of the features include being able to navigate through films more easily, which has already been taken up by Malaysian companies to manage censorship restrictions and facilitate the removal of unsuitable scenes. Doing this through Video Indexer is much cheaper than employing people and it’s not as time consuming, plus it frees up creatives’ time and allows them to focus on making more important decisions that would not otherwise be prioritized.

Video Indexer reallocates the most boring tasks of the process and delegates them to machines. AI can replace the robotic jobs done by humans, such as facial recognition, content moderation and language translation. Video Indexer can also currently capture up to nine different languages in real-time and translate the content for audiences immediately, although the translation becomes more accurate the more the machine listens.

Obviously, there are still some challenges faced by AIs that Microsoft is currently trying to work through. These include making AI as ethical as possible and finding ways to avoid it inheriting any prejudices that its creators may have. Currently the software recognizes white male faces better than females and identifies Caucasians better than Asians. “If it’s only used to verify existing prejudices more, we’re not gaining anything,” says Emerson. “We need to work on and be more cognizant of what the public wants.”

Video Indexer is temporarily available in front of a paywall so that Microsoft can distinguish how the industry would benefit from using it and continue developing it further. But Emerson assures that there are many opportunities available for Video Indexer to propel the creative industries forward.

Watch the full interview between Emerson and Lepitak from the Edinburgh TV Festival above.

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