Netflix's Max will help indecisive viewers choose their content.
These days there are nearly limitless options for entertainment. Heck, with just a wireless device and Netflix you can pretty much count on never having to be alone with your thoughts ever again. After all, who needs self-contemplation when you have all the various Star Treks at your finger tips? The problem that often arises from having so much entertainment, however, is choosing what to watch. Someday the history books will likely commit pages to the countless hours people wasted picking movies for their Instant Queues.
Perhaps recognizing the dangerous indecisiveness of its users, Netflix is endeavoring to make the process of choosing all the easier. Today, in a blog post, it announced the introduction of Max, a new feature debuting on PS3s designed to help viewers find content. "Max, rumored to be the child of Siri and HAL 9000, asks a few questions about your mood or movie and TV show tastes to arrive at a suggestion, of course based on your tastes and taking advantage of the Netflix algorithms that predict what you'd enjoy watching," said Todd Yellin, vice president of product innovation at Netflix.
A video accompanying the announcement demonstrated Max in action, using several different methods to suggest content. In the first users were asked to choose a genre and then rate several related films/shows. After a few brief computations Max then picked a piece of content it found to be a good fit. In the "Celebrity Mood Ring" option, users had to pick between a pair of actors. Depending on whom they chose Max would make a decision. A similar option will ask users to pick between random, highly specific content tags. Finally, "Max's Mystery Call" simply selects something for you based on your previous viewing habits.
While Max will likely be a useful tool for many people, there's just unsettling about putting your choices in the hands of a piece of software. Sure, the PS3 is aging and probably not powerful enough to be the foundation of a machine insurrection, but with next-gen consoles on the horizon, it may be only a matter of time before Max becomes self-aware and starts selecting our dooms instead of our movies.