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Singular vision

By Edo Segal 02-07-2015

Ever study a bathtub after you pull out the plug? For a long time you can barely tell the difference. Yes, the level of the water is slowly going down but there is no turmoil. Everything appears calm. But towards the end the turmoil starts. As the last of the water rushes down the plughole a vortex forms, a gurgling noise is made, and then… it’s all over.

We are very near this point in the traditional media industry. The changes in consumer behaviour marked by the millennials and predicted for decades are upon us. The speed at which macro-behavioural trends can alter is accelerating.

In an age when there is such an abundance of options for how we spend our time on mobile devices, engagement is king. This is why video content and gaming are so important – there are no better ways to engage. As you are increasingly going to be consuming both on your mobile device – phone or tablet – it is imperative that the video you watch be interactive.

You have all seen the videos of young toddlers touching a magazine or TV screen and being puzzled by why they don’t respond to their touch. The same is increasingly true for any content on a screen, with the possible exception of a great TV drama, which is also being challenged by gaming trends and virtual reality.

This is the reason we at bMuse spend so much time with the world’s top publishers and broadcasters to explore what happens when the internet and video have a love child. It’s why we started TouchCast, which puts the full richness and interactivity of the web inside HD video.

Early evidence suggests we are on to something. On average over 50% of our audience interacts with these videos. We have created a platform that not only allows us to create this interactive fusion of the web and video using just an iPad or iPhone but also analytics that allow us a view inside the minds of our audience. We track in real time how users are touching or clicking the screen, and we call this a map of human curiosity.

There is no doubt we are feeling the tow of that vortex I alluded to earlier. But it’s not the tow of the end, it’s at the beginning. Like going through a wormhole, the evidence shown by the numbers suggests that the world is ripe for this merger of all these disparate types of experiences into one uniquely engaging medium.

We live in incredibly exciting times. Things that have been talked about for so long are upon us. With the looming release of the fourth-generation Apple TV and the inevitable response from Samsung and others, we are about to witness the last dumb screen in your home come to life.

I’ve spent time recently thinking about the notion of what’s called the ‘Singularity,’ the moment when our computers will become self-aware.

What does this mean for our media landscape? Most of the narratives around this are from very intelligent and visionary people who talk about danger. They say we will experience something of a Frankenstein moment when these Terminators will Skynet us out of existence.

I see it fundamentally differently. Every time we use the internet, even when we search for something, it’s contributing to the results that the next person will find. Or when we use a media product our behaviour is being recorded.

We’re effectively building this memory and consciousness, as well as patterns of behaviour, together and I believe we will become a more intelligent species as a result. And when this moment of Singularity happens it won’t happen as a consequence of a machine that is beyond our control. Instead we will have created something more like a brain, like a person, who at birth will have all of our collective memories and insights, and the cognitive ability to process them all instantly.

I view this as our child, and that’s the metaphor I choose to believe in for this Singularity. This child that we’re birthing together is the consequence of our collective experiences, and this person will be taking care of us, not trying to wipe us off the planet. I make this point because, for the media industry to survive long term, we need to start thinking now of what the future looks like, not in a year’s time but in 10, 15, 25 years’ time. We spend too much energy reinventing the old when we should be inventing the new.

Our children’s children will be born into a fundamentally different world, and that’s what we need to be preparing for.

today's correspondent

Edo Segal Founder and CEO

Edo Segal is the founder and CEO of bMuse, a technology and investment company he set up after selling his former business, real-time search company Relegence, to AOL in 2006. With over 20 years of experience in the technology and media world, Segal is a noted expert in emerging media technologies and platforms, including immersive entertainment, stereoscopic 3D and 360 Video formats. He has invented and patented a wide range of game-changing media technologies.

bMuse has helped develop and incubate companies including web video integration specialist TouchCast, HD mobile media consumption platform Vast and immersive games specialist ReToy.