Mums the Word

Warm sunny afternoons in winter are surreal, while I basked in the sun, my teenager walked in with a very ‘let’s make a deal look’. Bemused, I wondered what the commercials involved would be. With a heavy voice he said, “ Mom! As much as I want to go for the FIFA World Cup this year, it will not be possible because I will be settling into college.”

I was still guessing the direction and the damages of this so-called deal he was going to propose. Meanwhile pulling up a chair he sat in front of me with his arms crossed over his chest. I sensed this was indeed a well deliberated covenant and the scope of wriggling out of it was almost negligible. This knocked out of my blissful reverie, I sat facing the harsh realities of teenage-led transactions. The fine weather did not matter any longer. This winter was going to hit hard.

Coming directly to the point he said, “Since I wouldn’t be able to go to Qatar, I’d like the next best thing, FIFA 22 Hypermotion and in its stead, I shall study well enough to get a full scholarship to the college we have already decided on.” Intrigued, I asked what Hypermotion is.

Standing tall he peered into my eyes and said, “ It is a game Mother!!!”. As I watched him walk away after I negotiated “time to think”, I immediately asked Alexa what Hypermotion was and with a calm voice she replied, “Hypermotion is an AI-based technology. It combines machine learning with 11v11 motion capture…..” I was all ears with enthusiasm especially since it resonated with my work at Magnifi. Hypermotion implied that the player manoeuvres during a match are now more realistic than ever before but on next-gen consoles. The technology provides the best footballing experience ever. Sure that is smart, I thought, but what about it?

Unsatisfied, I began my quest to learn more about it. Let me clarify, it is an understatement that it is a GenNext technology with AI and ML playing superhero roles. EA- for Electronic Arts captures professional players and their in-game idiosyncrasies in real 11 vs 11 game backdrops with each player wearing the uber Xsen suit. It results in an incomparable volume of high-quality real human movement data powered on how both the player and the teams move across FIFA 22. It is beyond fantasy for a soccer buff, I reckoned. The most interesting part is that the ML algorithm is mastered with 8.7 million advanced match capture that is used to create new animations in real-time with candid verismo.

The more I read the more it tickled my curious grey cells so I decided to bring this to my go-to tech person – our AI engineer, Vivek. I dialled his number and bombarded him with a string of questions. Patiently, he explained that it is the latest tactical realism that is powered by the AI algorithm in the newfangled consoles that gave the players a better understanding of the game of football and movement.

The players are empowered with visions of the surroundings and the ability to make six times more decisions per second which helps them tackle better. The rewritten defensive AI was endowed with strategic abilities to move across vacant positions. The ML- Flow machine learning algorithm actually creates new animations in real-time, extending the scope to the players to holster up their posture, stride and momentum for better strikes. It was amazing to learn that it was mastered from the Advanced 11v11 Match Capture based on 8.7 million frames.

The FIFA 22 Hypermotion is enabled with two-player interaction that is synced with player animations, superior responsiveness and ultra-realism during the game with precise outcomes. Apparently, the extended two-touch animations make the ball more real and nimble with great lithe with better strength in shielding situations.

The Xsens suits are equipped with sensors that work with precision in unanimous backdrops that capture full-body motion. Strangely my thoughts wandered to the Ironman Mark Armour, and I wondered if it would make me feel like Pepper Pot in her Rescue Armour. Being enlightened about Hypermotion, I felt cheated for not having been born as Gen Z. However it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I treated myself to the FIFA 22 Hypermotion, after all, mums deserve the best. The setting sun still felt warm and the childlike exuberance demanded an adult-like strong coffee, as I braced for the negotiations I knew were awaiting me at the dinner table.

My Time My Content

Travelling intensely these last few weeks has made me homesick; the feeling of being in my own country, the connection with the people, the language, the food, the happy clamour. Ruminating on this, I turned to television, hoping to connect with my native roots on foreign soil. My first stop was Netflix, but it did seem like I had already watched everything that was of interest to me! Or perhaps the process of searching for content that I wanted to watch was just too time-consuming. This got me thinking about whether there was a content deficiency in general or the creators were not tapping the right content that viewers like me wanted to watch. This blog was thus inspired, researched and written.

Netflix was launched in India at the beginning of 2016, and during the pandemic, it gained a strong toehold being a steadfast companion during the global lockdown. However in recent times despite some astounding international movies and shows, it has seen a marked drop in its market share, which was also reflected in the response from the stock markets.

This ofcourse led me to think why audiences were more loyal to one streaming platform over another? 

Incidentally, a number of OTT players have emerged over the years and have been able to capture the attention of audiences willing to pay for custom content.  I reckoned some of the Facebook groups that I was a part of were like the Illuminatis of OTT with members of these groups being serious seekers of good content. As I scrolled through their recommendation on the must-watch content, Panchayat; a home-grown show on Amazon Prime got the highest recommendations. A few episodes down, it was a beautiful story of a city boy who had moved to the countryside and showcased his hardships and subtle philosophical realisations. The show was extremely relatable and touched a nerve. Such content that is personalised and created for the masses can augment viewership in copious numbers. Most consumers are egging for personalised content that gives them the feeling of home and cultural relatability. 

I suppose, in a country where the per capita income is low, the viability of an expensive subscription plan for any household is of concern and the onus is on the OTT platform to make their offers and content attractive to justify this spend. The principal conundrum on hand also is the availability of content pertinent to the common folk. Although shows like Stranger Things, Money Heist, Homeland, Chernobyl are lauded, the common vernacular populus struggles to apprehend and relate to such shows. On the same line, another significant factor was the discontinuation of some great shows leaving the audience on a cliffhanger. Shows like Made in Heaven, Sacred Games, The Test Case, and Asur on myriad platforms; however, the long gaps between separate seasons made the viewers grow impatient and lose interest.

India speaks many languages and just ten languages gain 50-100 million traction globally. Regional content like Dhononjoy (Bengali), The Great Indian Kitchen (Malayalam), Queen (Tamil), KGF series ( Kannada), RRR (Telugu), and Aarya (Hinglish) has exploded on the OTT platform primarily because almost all these shows have elements relatable and entertaining to the larger populace.

This influx of content and subscribers means that there is now more content available to an average subscriber than ever before. Personalisation of content needs to be further fortified with recommendations triggered by past viewing data, demographics, ranking of content and targeted marketing along with great retention plans and seasonal strategies eg. summer specials, Christmas packages etc. Today every OTT platform must match the content to its audience, ensure timely delivery and offer access seamlessly across all platforms and devices.

A quote that always lingers in my mind and seems apt here, “You can take an Indian out of India, but you can never take India out of an Indian.” can also be applied to any other country or region. As a person who quite enjoys kaleidoscopic content in English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese and South American, I cannot deny finding that little extra comfort and entertainment in watching something that makes me feel at home.