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AI revolution in media : BBC4 broadcasts program made by machine

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On the 4th and 5th of September, a unique television experience took place in the United Kingdom on one of the BBC channels. It is on BBC4 that 2 exceptional evenings dedicated to artificial intelligence took place. In addition to the documentaries that allowed viewers to familiarise themselves with this complex theme, these two evenings were also an opportunity to experiment with the broadcasting of a programme entirely designed by an algorithm. It is precisely this unique program that we invite you to discover in today’s article.

Artificial intelligence is revolutionising the World of Media.

This was the subject of a presentation I gave to the BMMA (Belgium Management and Marketing Association) on 15 November 2019. Our marketing intelligence shows that artificial intelligence is now used at all levels of the media value chain: design, production, analysis, consumption, delivery, monetisation. Here, are the 6 main categories around which we have structured our study and which we have illustrated with dozens of real examples. If you would like a complete report on the subject, do not hesitate to contact us.

The algorithms and the platforms to run them are now well accessible and allow media organisations to launch their first experiments. In particular, we have observed many initiatives around metadata extraction using Speech-to-text and NLP (Natural Language Processing), face, object and place recognition. Use cases have yet to be invented, and it must be admitted that some of them are scientific experiments without necessarily generating real business value.

A program entirely created by algorithms.

To go back to BBC4, the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the programme “Made by Machine”, which, for an hour, offered the viewer the opportunity to watch the production of an artificial intelligence programmed to bring together extracts from the BBC archives.

The team that worked on this project had to battle on several fronts to achieve this result:

1. Selection of programmes from the BBC archives.

As BBC4’s DNA is unique (it is a channel aimed at a public seeking specific information), the first challenge is to search the BBC archives for programmes whose DNA was likely to match that of BBC4.

2. Scene cut-outs

Once the files had been pre-selected, other algorithms were used to extract consistent extracts from them. Different techniques have been used here to respect this consistency. We invite you to contact us if you would like to know more.

3. Assembly

Finally, an algorithm assembled the different scenes together to compose the program. It is this result that can be viewed below.

The conclusion

 To begin with, let us salute the pioneering spirit of the BBC.

The venerable British institution, through its BBC R&D division, invests significant sums in the experimentation and development of the most advanced techniques for the media. Artificial intelligence, in particular, is at the heart of the R&D division’s research and the award won by the BBC at IBC 2018 is proof of their excellence.

Then it still takes a little courage to give airtime to a program designed by a machine, especially this one. Because what the show revealed to those who watched it is that technology is still far from replacing the human. The “Made by Machine” show was indeed very far from perfect. Technically, the transitions between scenes were far from being judicious, but the assembly itself gave the impression of a disjointed result whose common thread was more to be found in the places represented than in the story. In short, the algorithms developed have been able to find audio-visual fragments corresponding to a place or a person, but that are, for the time being, far from being able to compose a story from this raw material. Creativity is therefore what artificial intelligence lacks, and that is why humans are not likely to lose their central role in society any time soon.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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