The mood machine: TV and movie search engine Jinni wants to know how you’re feeling

jinniCuration has taken over the Internet, for better or worse. An application is hardly worth using unless you’re promised at least a modicum of personalization that will make it specific to you in some way. Whatever the long term effects of this on content production are, it’s unarguably a trend that isn’t going anywhere.

And it’s spread its reach fairly wide: there are apps that curate content based on your friends, your reading habits, your demographic, your apps, your download history, your likes, what songs you listen to. But a relatively unexplored treasure trove of curation possibilities is mood.

Music and recipes apps have tentatively taken a stab at results based on “what are you in the mood for?” but it’s been rather untouched by other major players. Jinni, a TV show and movie content engine, has made it a priority. “It’s like Pandora for movies,” says Aya Shapir, marketing manager for Jinni. “The big difference is that behind the Jinni engine there is an automated natural language processing algorithm.”

“The underlying meaning behind this technology is that it goes much deeper than your standard genre search,” she says. Jinni was built by entertainment industry veterans and language experts, who came together to try and address human frustrations with content discovery. With Jinni, you can either use its search engine or make an account so it can take a more thorough look at what types of movie and TV content you like. You can use phrases like “sarcastic,” “witty,” or “tense,” and Jinni will predict what results fit best, and then show you where you can find them. Of course, Jinni offers traditional options, like searching via plot or actor keywords.

But it’s mood-based search is definitely what sets the application apart from an increasingly crowded market. “A lot of searches today are based on meta-tagging: genre, director, product, actor,” says Shapir. “But you can’t go and search for a movie based on your mood – saying, ‘I’m in the mood for something sarcastic, funny, and about people growing up in the 1960s.’ That’s something you can do with Jinni.”

The startup, founded in 2008 and still in beta, just released its API and is starting to take steps toward a bigger profile. Jinni has introduced what it refers to as “effective social” tools, which, instead of taking cues from your friends and adding it to your recommendations, it loops in your own personal tastes and moods. It looks into the Jinni engine instead of Facebook’s or Twitter’s and tries to create more accurate recommendations for groups.

The big picture, of course, is weaving Jinni into the living room. Shapir describes it as something of a content management and recommendation service for households, where each person can log in to see what shows or movies are recommended for them – and if they want to add people to that list, the engine will take that into consideration. If just mom is watching, the results will be different than if the user indicated that mom and dad were watching. Then Jinni will take both user profiles to suggest content. Shapir says it could end that eternal fight over the remote.

Belgian telecommunications corporation Belgacom has the application available online for its subscribers. Shapir says Jinni is in talks with other companies but can’t name names quite yet. But future partnerships should go easily: she says Jinni’s sandbox feature makes for smoother transitions and that the startup is very invested in providing a fully-featured and highly accessible developer environment. Eventually, the application will be woven into box top solutions. 

While Jinni has plenty of television screen aspirations, the connected TV app is still a future project and the online service remains the focus. “We’re going to enhance our service online and introduce mobile and tablet apps, and after that we’re going to go into connected TV efforts,” Shapir says. Which is for the best: while the idea behind Jinni is unique and the execution into the living room sounds promising, the application currently leaves you wanting. Although easy to navigate, the design is outdated and the user interface slightly unintuitive. The technology and the results make up for this fact, but there will need to be some resolve to strengthen the aesthetic and user experience before Jinni goes more mainstream. 

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