Hackathons have become a fairly regular fixture at Movio HQ, but this April was a special one. We are currently undergoing a huge company-wide branding refresh and wanted to connect this to the theme this year. Hackers were faced with the challenge: what could Movio look like from a technical and product perspective in 2025? The key driver here was to see how far we could push our imaginations to picture how things such as recognition, big data, and artificial intelligence could drive Movio’s products in years to come.
One thing that becomes clear when you witness a Hackathon in-action is the incredible amount of passion and drive to see a project through. The way in which you can take an idea, have a team form around it and push a prototype out in the course of 24 hours is quite a sight to behold and be a part of. While there is typically a lot of ideas that come out during a Hackathon, the ideas are typically in their infancy. However, some projects come through that make you stop and consider their potential impact for positive change. Hackathons really prove that if you give a team a clear vision and permission to execute, they will flourish.
As previously mentioned, the focus this year was around Movio 2025. Growing up watching movies and reading books about the ‘Year 2000’, it was long-envisioned as a time for flying cars and drinks served by robots. In reality we all know that is not the case, but it was a fun thought exercise. Asking our teams to think about how far they can push technology in the next five years was really a nod to this, as so many of these exciting advances are real and accessible now. Some of the stand-out projects and concepts explored by our teams are mentioned below:
Voice and facial recognition
One team wanted to find out if they could train a voice recognition framework to execute product level commands by simply speaking them to the console. The team,‘OK Movio’ were inspired by the classic ‘OK Google’ voice assistant. While the prototype itself used Google’s voice recognition framework and out-of-the-box browser functionality, the result was staggering. Within 24 hours we had a prototype affectionately known as ‘Jarvis’ (thanks, Ironman), who was able to execute product commands such as ‘Create campaign’, ‘Show campaign’, etc.
Another team focused on in-cinema facial recognition, playing with the idea of whether films could be dynamically ‘recommended’ for guests. The Minority Report concept would inform content to dynamically change based on the information gathered by facial recognition. While their system was trained to determine age, gender and multiple people in a single image, the core of this project was simply to explore. The privacy concerns and actual application of this are clear hurdles for this to ever become a reality.
Another team used their 24 hours to innovate on the process of mapping movies. In the cinema space, each retailer is able to label every film in their system however they like. For example, upcoming Avengers: End Game could be called, “The Avengers: End Game”, “Avengers: End Game IMAX”. “Avengers Marathon: End Game”, The Avengers: End Game (Kids special)”, etc. As you can imagine, this can get complicated for an analytical platform like ours, as we need all of these variations to register as the single film Avengers: End Game in order to form accurate predictions and segmentation of the audience. The team built artificial intelligence trained to accurately categorize all variations under a single film, a possible replacement of the manual human process that currently exists. The results showed we were able to accurately map 84% of movies through the usage of AI, with only 0.18% incorrectly mapped. The interesting part of this was that within that 0.18% nearly half of those were due to incorrect mappings made by humans. This shows huge potential for us to use AI to map our movies in the future.
One of our teams focussed on social psychology to fuel their creation process, exploring new ways to segment an audience and members based on ‘group influence’. Referring to one of their teammates PhD’s, they recognised that when people attend movies in different social settings (as a couple, with a group of friends, with family, etc.) they have different tastes and preferences while in each. A key insight the team used from social psychology was that when people are in shared social settings (couples/groups) the couple or group itself can be treated as a distinct member, apart from the members that make it up. By targeting audiences via social context, we have a fuller picture of who they are and what they want to watch.
A HQ welcome
With four awards on the table, our final mention was for that of Movio Kiosk - a virtual receptionist for Movio HQ. Our Auckland office doesn’t have a typical entranceway, meaning new visitors often walk directly into our engineering space. To help smoothen out the kinks of our visitor experience, this group set up an iPad sign-in system. Visitors could enter their name, the purpose of their visit, and who they had come to see, and the system would automatically send a message via Slack (our office’s key means of communication) to the appropriate individual. It was all built from scratch, and during the demo in the final presentations they even sent a message to all Movio staff to demonstrate its power.
The big winners of the day were ‘OK Movio’, who won tickets to a special screening of the upcoming Star Wars movie where the Auckland Symphony Orchestra will be playing scores alongside the soundtrack.
Every time there is a Hackathon at Movio, it catches you by surprise. The amount of energy, fun and incredible results tied up in 24 hours is hard to put into words. That, matched with our recent rebranding, meant the energy in the office was epic yet again this year. It’s moments like these where we are proud to be a part of Movio; a place where we have a real, tangible impact on the film industry, a space where we are free to explore our talents in both ideas and execution, and have a world class team of human beings around us to push the idea to places you didn’t even think about. 2025, here we come.