By Hans Hartman
[Scroll down for And a few more things… industry news highlights]
The Quibi rollout at CES deserves more space than I had in our last newsletter. Below are not only more details, but also my perspectives on why Quibi is such an intriguing startup that bends all the usual rules in startup land.
What is Quibi? Simply put, Quibi (its name derived from “Quick Bites” but pronounced kwih-bee) is Netflix but with short-form, mobile-only, video. Or it’s YouTube but with professional-only, mobile-only video. Quibi is slated to offer on-the-go, bite-sized professionally created movies (or movies in bite-size chapters), documentaries and daily shows of up to 10 minutes in length, optimized for viewing on smartphones.
Quibi is the app you open when waiting for your bus, have a bit of spare time before dinner, or the app you dive right in when you feel like binge watching a variety of videos. The content is professionally created thanks to co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Hollywood connections and the startup’s deep pockets (Quibi has raised $1.4 billion to date), and made from scratch for exclusive watching on smartphones, using co-founder Meg Whitman’s Silicon Valley tech connections and the startup’s same deep pockets.
Quibi will roll out more than 175 original shows and 8,500 short-form episodes within its first year, releasing 3 hours of new content every weekday.
To me, Quibi’s most impressive innovations come from the way it leverages the phone’s unique features in its visual stories, such as the phone’s touchscreen, camera, GPS, gyroscope, clock, and light measurement sensors. For instance, Steven Spielberg stipulated that his new thriller After Dark may only be watched, hmm, after dark, so Quibi uses the phone’s clock and GPS to determine the time of day when the user is allowed to watch the movie.
Much more is feasible (think of having your phone vibrate right when that matches the story line; or have an exercise show tap into your phone’s pedometer for an interactive experience), but the one feature that stands out most is Turnstyle, which triggers the display of different content depending on how the user holds their phone. When the user rotates their phone from portrait to landscape or v.v. the video automatically continues with footage optimized for viewing the video in that position.
(This means that Quibi shoots all content twice and makes it flawlessly sync with the audio in either position).
The benefits go beyond the optimization of aspect ratios. For instance, when the viewer watches Quibi’s upcoming Nest movie in landscape, they see the protagonist in bed staring at her phone. In portrait mode, the viewer sees what the protagonist sees: the Nest app interface that shows a not-to-be trusted delivery person live-recorded by her Nest camera.
Rotate the phone again, and you see how the protagonist responds to what she is seeing in her app.
Quibi is slates to go live April 6 and will offer a two-tier subscription: $4.99 with advertising (limited to 2.5 minutes per hour of watching) and $7.99 for no-advertising.
My take? Quibi is a bold attempt to give us a new way of engaging with visual stories. Along the way, it breaks a few rules to which many of us in photo/video startup land have learned to adhere.
For one, the term de jour these days is MVP. While a startup might think big, many startups have learned through the school of hard knocks to limit initial development efforts and start with a minimum viable product. This way, they can receive user feedback early on and iterate until they get things right. This not only limits their risks of developing the wrong features or products, but it also helps them to educate the market through baby steps rather than requiring customers from the get-go to completely change the way they do things. A mobile AR app is an MVP approach; a Magic Leap headset or a pair of Google Glasses have proven to be much riskier approaches.
“MVP” doesn’t exist in Quibi’s playbook – the company goes all out and has nailed down an impressive – and risky – amount of details months before launching their 1.0 version.
Another trend Quibi breaks with is centering a business model around user-generated content. YouTube and TikTok, arguably the most used short-form visual story telling services, have done real well by relying on UGC, user generated content – Quibi goes back to the old days of professional content.
Is that approach doomed to nail? Not so fast. While YouTube and TikTok have grown the size they’re now to a large extent thanks to UGC, let’s not forget there is a lot of professional short form content on these platforms as well. Think sections of late-night comedy shows on YouTube and an increased professionalism among Creators (you know, the folks we used to call Influencers) on both platforms, which makes it hard to say what is professional content these days and what isn’t. Add to that Snapchat’s successes with their Discovery channel and Quibi’s emphasis on professional video content isn’t such an aberration – what matters is the degree to which this content has a creative and original voice that attracts millennials and other trendsetting demographics.
And a few more things…
Clearview. The scary part of facial recognition. Which goes beyond gender, racial or other biases when incorrectly labeling people, according to this investigative report in the New York Times. Clearview.ai’s reportedly pretty accurate people identification is coupled with a massive proprietary database of 3 billion images scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites, making it the darling of law enforcement and private security customers. Legislation of facial recognition is way overdue …
Peekaboo Moments. More scary stuff, but due to ignorance it seems. The Peekaboo Moments app has left baby videos, photos, and 800,000 users’ email addresses exposed on the internet.
Apple & Xnor.ai. Apple is sprucing up its “AI on the edge” development efforts. For, give or take, $200M Apple has acquired Xnor.ai, a machine learning company that specializes in making its algorithms so efficient that, according to press reports, these can run on even the lowest tier of hardware.
Mojo Vision. The future isn’t quite there yet, but it’s on the horizon – in view, so to the say. What we described in our Consumer AR App Trends report under the types of Wearable AR innovations that we could expect to see in the future, is a step closer to reality. Mojo Vision showed a prototype of contact lenses displaying digital text for now, but in the future its products will also sense objects, track eye motion, have an eye-controlled interface that will access data like a smartwatch or smartglasses, and… they’ll see in the dark. Not impressed yet? Think about these tiny little contacts needing to embed a battery, a processor, a 5GHz radio to transmit data, motion-tracking and image-sensing functions!
The Imaging Innovation Conference (IIC) @ photokina. Call for speakers. Have innovative imaging technology, products or services to demo or discuss? Let me know – I’ll be hosting several sessions at the new IIC conference, a one-day conference that will be held the day before photokina, May 26, in Cologne, Germany.
Photobook.ai. Photobook.ai announces new Computer Vision AI toolkits developed specifically for the school photography market, taking the heavy lifting out of curating the desired school photography shots by quickly scanning all the shots from a game and automatically sorting them into teams, numbers and even suggesting the “hero” action shot for each game.
GotPhoto. Volume school photography solution GotPhoto now offers prepaid photo orders, including bundle packs. Parents can order digital downloads or printed output from GotPhoto’s print partners.
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