Netflix Takes Video Recommendations to the ‘Max’


Netflix’s latest stab at helping subscribers discover content from its massive inventory comes in the form of an automaton named Max that makes suggestions and recommendations based on what it learns about a customer’s moods and tastes.

Max is “rumored to be the child of Siri and HAL 9000,” Netfix VP of product innovation Todd Yellin noted in jest in this blog post about the launch. No word if Max Headroom is a third cousin, once removed.

Netflix is introducing Max initially on the PlayStation 3, which happens to be Netflix’s “primary development platform,” and only in the U.S.  If Max performs, Netflix will bring him to other platforms, with iPad the “likely” next target, according to Yellin.

Hitting on a content discovery and personalization trend that’s reaching all forms of video service providers, Max is built on algorithms to predict what customers would enjoy. Netflix didn’t name any vendors it’s using for the recommendation engine, but did pass along that it worked with Jellyvision, the company behind the You Don’t Know Jack franchise, on the animation.

And that would explain the irreverent, game show-like Netflix is taking with Max, which offers a “ratings game” where customer pick a genre that suits their moods and then get asked to rate titles on Netflix’s five-star scale.

If Max gets a “little cocky,” he’ll make an unprompted “mystery suggestion” that isn’t revealed unless the customer fires up the stream.  

And Max does a lot of other things that will give me reason to use Netflix the next time I get a chance to fire up the PS3 at home. Here’s video that shows Max in action: