Podcast: Michael Zink Vice President of Technology at Warner Bros.

Aimée Ricca sits down with Michael Zink, vice president of technology at Warner Bros. to discuss the topic of the upcoming SMPTE 2018 Symposium, Driving the Entertainment Revolution: Autonomous Cars, Machine Intelligence, & Mixed Reality. The 22 October event will take place at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles leading into the SMPTE 2018 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition (SMPTE 2018). www.smpte2018.org/symposium.html  


Aimée Ricca:                00:13               Hi, welcome to our series of informal chats with industry leaders so that you can get to know them and the technologies that you use better. We are here at NAB live, and the SMPTE 2018 Symposium topic is, Driving the Entertainment Revolution, Autonomous Cars, Machine Intelligence, and Mixed reality. It is my pleasure to be here today with the Symposium chair, Mike Zink, Vice President of technology at Warner Brothers.

Aimée Ricca:                00:40               Mike, in a recent SMPTE industry survey, more than 61% of the respondents, they are not personally involved with immersive media. But, 54% do say it's an important issue for their organization, and 77% say it's important for the industry. Mike, can you tell you us how this SMPTE 2018 symposium might be addressing this topic?

Mike Zink:                    01:02               Absolutely, so we'll be looking at the future of in-car entertainment. By that, I don't mean a larger iPad strapped to the front seat. Instead, we'll be talking about leveraging multiple new technology innovations in various fields to develop fully immersive experiences. While we often times refer to immersive media in more isolated context, like an experience in a VR headset, blending information with real-world via AR glasses, or something along those lines. The possibilities hardly end there. There's a lot more that can be done. If you consider the future of in-car entertainment, it essentially allows you to take a step, literally, into a fully immersive environment that enables experiences never before possible, and completely revolutionizes the entertainment industry.

Aimée Ricca:                01:52               Why do you think we're seeing so much interest in these topics, autonomous care, AI, MR, and the combination?

Mike Zink:                    02:00               Besides the fact that each of these are really cool, and makes science fiction become reality?

Aimée Ricca:                02:05               Well, that.

Mike Zink:                    02:06               Seriously, I believe people are interested in these innovations for different reasons. Autonomous cars provide people with more free time, something that they've never had before. They reduce the daily grind in traffic. AI provides a lot more information and allows connections to enable new experiences, and more or less promises to simplify your life. Mixed reality is enhancing our actual reality by adding more layers to improve our cognition. All of them provide new capabilities, but also some potential threats to some degree. I think that's where some of the interest is coming from. From my perspective, it really is that combination that provides exciting new opportunity.

Aimée Ricca:                02:51               What have you seen specifically to indicate that in-car entertainment, AI, and MR are issues that are now gaining momentum in the industry?

Mike Zink:                    02:59               We're in an interesting cross section in the industry for now. There are many new technologies on the rise. Pretty much every car manufacturer is working on autonomous driving. There is a variety of companies working on MR, AR, VR, and also on artificial intelligence in machinery product. There's a lot of developments with different sensor technologies on top of all that. Each of them provide an interesting capability set by themselves if you look at them isolated. But, once you start putting them all together, it's one of those rare occasions where one plus one equals much more than two. That prospect alone is pretty cool.

Aimée Ricca:                03:44               Now, what role do you think standards and standard bodies, such as SMPTE, are going to play in making these innovations come to the market in the most effective manner?

Mike Zink:                    03:54               I believe standards will actually be very critical. Developing compelling experiences, in general, time-consuming really. It costs a lot of money to typically, and having standards will be necessary to really allow for that monetization. As an example, if you create a VR application today, you have to essentially develop it for about a dozen different platforms, and it's the same experience 12 times. That just takes a lot more time, it takes a lot more money, and makes it really difficult to monetize the overall development cycles. Creating these new experiences in different ways, using various platforms will really be very challenging. Having some standards that you can leverage will be incredibly important, and an industry group such as SMPTE, which sits at this intersection of creative development and technology innovation, it would be a really great way to take a leadership in helping to establish the necessary standards to enable this new type of entertainment.

Aimée Ricca:                05:00               This is a two part question, I guess. These innovations, obviously, we make them to benefit consumers. How do you see them specifically benefiting consumers, and then also the industry?

Mike Zink:                    05:14               I think to start with, it will be fantastic for consumers as they will really be able to enjoy completely new, completely different, and very exciting immersive experiences. Whether that's for educational purposes or just general entertainment, doesn't really matter, there's so many opportunities out there. It's ultimately really about experience that you cannot have anywhere else but in a vehicle. You essentially have screens all around you that can be transparent, or can be full screen video, or it can augment content on top of it as you see fit. You have lighting and sound, potential motion in the vehicle, and all of that working in unison with the movement of the vehicle itself. You can have awareness of the environment and the surroundings, where the content can essentially respond and interact with where you currently are.

Mike Zink:                    06:07               I think, this provides not only interesting benefits to consumers, but also great opportunities for the entertainment industry at large, to really create these compelling experiences. If you think about it, once autonomous cars arrive, you're really giving people time back. Time that they're currently spending being occupied by operating the vehicle. They can now consumer more content, more entertainment. Having all the information of the movements of the vehicle, of where the vehicle is and the general surroundings, really making that type of information available to the "content engine" allows you to really create very compelling content pieces that you can only have in this vehicle, based on its contextually aware of where it's driving right now, you can layer on a lot of possible content options that you otherwise wouldn't have.

Aimée Ricca:                07:02               I like the idea of getting time back.

Mike Zink:                    07:05               Don't we all?

Aimée Ricca:                07:06               Yes, I think we all need more time. What should members of our community, technologists and creatives in the entertainment sector, do to harness these innovations and to bring the new experiences to the consumers?

Mike Zink:                    07:19               I think mostly it's being imaginative. Thinking beyond the specific boundaries of an individual innovation. Not trying to be constrained by looking at AI and what we think it can do, but looking at VR, and what we think it can do. Really trying to bring these things together, and thinking about the multiple innovations, mashing them together, and having multiplying effects that they provide once you start putting it together. It's almost like each of those innovations is a little piece to a much larger puzzle, and it's really being able to combine those innovations, and developing new experiences that haven't been possible before.

Aimée Ricca:                08:04               Finally, why is the SMPTE 2018 symposium a must attend? As if you haven't said enough.

Mike Zink:                    08:10               Well, to some degree, over the pasts few years, SMPTE was doing a lot of the groundwork with the previous symposiums. All of them focused on these individual innovations. We had some of the symposiums talking about improved picture, improved sound, ALVR, the future of storytelling, all the way to artificial intelligence and machine learning last year. This year, it's really taking all of these pieces and putting them together, in order to create this ultimate immersive experience. I think it will be very exciting, provide lots of ideas for people that are just curious about the future of this industry. All these innovations are creating a massive disruption, and will revolutionize the entertainment industry as we know it today. It's absolutely a don't miss out opportunity.

Aimée Ricca:                09:00               Well, that sounds really good. Thank you for joining us today, and we look forward to the SMPTE 2018 symposium in October, and it's in a new location. No longer at Hollywood and Highland. It's at the Westin Bonaventure, downtown LA, and we look forward to seeing everybody there. www.SMPTE2018.org. Have a great day.