In February 2020, Richard Gelfond, CEO of IMAX, flew to Saint-Barth to visit his friend Daniel Nadler. Daniel Nadler founded the start-up Kensho in 2013 and sold it to S&P Global for $ 550 million (461 million euros) in 2018. After a few years in the management ranks of S&P, he removed from the business world and lived island life.
But island life for him – who, while earning his PhD in econometrics at Harvard, started Kensho and published a book of poetry – has little to do with hammocks and cocktails with his feet in the water. . Daniel Nadler’s new hobby was to create AI-powered works of art under the pseudonym Daniel Wallace. His works use machine learning to create ultra-high definition images of imaginary characters and 3D printed statues that are larger than life. The technology for his new hobby did not yet exist. Inspired by George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic company, he created a visual effects company called Maximus to develop technological tools.
In Saint-Barth, Daniel Nadler shared his ultra-high resolution art with Richard Gelfond. Richard asked him, “What you just showed me, do you think the technology could display the Superbowl in ultra-HD and in real time?” », Says Daniel. The beach getaway quickly turned into a business meeting.
“It was obvious that the combination of IMAX technology and the changing world had a lot in common with Daniel and what his team was doing when it came to artificial intelligence,” says Richard Gelfond. “We thought we had to do business together. “
This company is IMAX AI, a joint venture between IMAX and Daniel Nadler’s Maximus studio. Company to Combine IMAX Technology, Data and Picture Library with Maximus Machine Learning to Build TVs Capable of Displaying Live Programs, Streams, and Movies (New and Old) in ultra-HD. Although the associates revealed the new company last Thursday, they are being very tight-lipped on product details and launch dates.
Richard Gelfond and Daniel Nadler say, however, that IMAX AI will soon develop two core products. The first will be a brand of ultra-high-end televisions, aimed at wealthy home cinema customers. The second will be software that they can license to brands like Samsung and LG to offer true HD to as many people as possible. “It’s the Nvidia model,” says Daniel Nadler, referring to the computer giant. “They make the most premium supercomputers you can find on the market, and also the chips that power the machines for everyday users. “
If you might have a 4K HDTV, most of the shows, sports, and movies you watch on it are shot and streamed in lower quality. Filming and editing in 4K is expensive and time consuming, as is remastering older movies.
IMAX AI aims to use its computing power to instantly improve the image quality of any content, just like the software on your smartphone can automatically enhance a photo. How? ‘Or’ What ? By training algorithms on millions of frames, IMAX AI software can identify objects and make videos smoother and sharper by filling in the gaps. To put it simply, this is a high-tech version of reconstructing the missing pieces of a puzzle in real time.
For Mr. Gelfond, the joint venture is key to diversifying his product and expanding his home theater brand. It’s a plan that has been in the works for some time and becomes increasingly urgent as Covid-19 creates loopholes in the entertainment landscape. IMAX shares plunged more than 60% in March 2020, but they are back to their pre-pandemic level, with a market cap exceeding $ 1.3 billion (€ 1.1 billion).
According to Nadler, the quality of AI software depends on the data you provide it. One of the reasons he sold his fintech start-up Kensho to S&P Global was that the rating and financial research firm had the best economic data sets on the market. He sees the same opportunity with IMAX. “It strangely rhymes with what we did at Kensho,” he says. “IMAX has spent decades building the world’s leading brand of ultra-high definition images and image data. “
When image data and AI software turns into a marketable product remains unknown. “It’s not in the distant future. We are two hungry people who already see an opportunity, ”says Daniel Nadler. “This opportunity was created by Covid-19, by streaming and by people changing the way they spend their time as well as the place. We are tackling all of this at a deliberate speed. “
Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Steven Bertoni