Summary:

Netflix’s latest foray into personalization is a program that asks users to make snap decisions to find their next movie or TV show.

NetflixMax

Developing a personal assistant based on preferences isn’t easy. No one person is in the mood for the same thing all the time, or even the same thing in the span of half an hour. But Netflix’s new personal assistant, Max, adds a couple of new wrinkles: snap-judgment and sass.

The new program, which begins its rollout on PS3 only today, invites users to click on Max straight from the Netflix homepage. From there, the personal assistant guides users through a few games:

The Rating Game – Users can pick from three separate genres, which launch into a quick-rating game to determine the ultimate choice.

Celebrity Mood Ring – Max presents two, often opposing, celebrities to choose from, and then a movie or TV show from that actor is suggested.

Tag Picker – Based on Netflix’s tagging system, Max presents two hyper-focused tags like “UFOs” and “Tortured Geniuses,” and a pick based on the selection.

Max’s Mystery Call– Max tabulates the history and preferences of a user to give a mystery show. The user won’t know what Max has selected until the play button is clicked.

All of the options (except the mystery choice) also come with a 30-second pitch from Max, which includes a summary of the themes and plot as well as any accolades. If the user is not feeling Max’s choice, then there’s a choice to play another game or simply search through Netflix’s offerings manually.

Personal assistants are often a mixed blessing for users. Anyone who has spent time with Facebook’s Suggestions or iTunes Genius knows that sometimes the recommendastions seem like they’re intended for a different person.

Max appears to be the next logical step in tailoring recommendations for Netflix, which will also roll out personal profiles to fine-tune preferences for individual users. Of course, those more interested in finding shows themselves will eventually see Max’s sassy call-outs (“I’ll find something you love in 120 seconds-ish. Try me”) shrink down to the home page.

If Max is a success on PS3, VP of Product Innovation Todd Yellin says that the company will introduce the personal assistant most likely on an update to the iPad.

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