ETC Executive Coffee: A Discussion with Verizon’s Albert Lao

To kick off ETC@USC’s eight-part Executive Coffee with… series, Verizon’s Albert Lao led a Zoom discussion on September 23. “How will advances in network technology over the next 36 months impact the way we watch movies, play video games, and create and produce immersive and engaging experiences?” was the framing question for a wide-ranging discussion. Three students each from the cinema school and the engineering school, plus two students from the business school participated. Lao set up the discussion by showing a brief video explaining 5G and edge computing, and describing how they would impact entertainment creation, distribution and analytics.

Executive MBA student Jenny Liu spoke about the changing entertainment options being driven by COVID restrictions, such as “Mulan” premiering on Disney+ instead of in theaters and the “Stranger Things” drive-thru experience.

Film production graduate student Avo Kambourian would like to see group viewing and chat features seamlessly integrated into the video platforms. Gen Z is very active on Discord and Twitch. Bringing that functionality and feature set into the emerging subscription services would help future-proof them.

Freshman CS/EE major Cameron Gomez discussed how she and her friends take advantage of 5G’s low latency to game together from remote locations. Senior media studies student Ben Shiff gave his thoughts on how to get people back into movie theaters. He and CS graduate student Matt Voelcker spoke of their experiences with VR hardware and what it will take for VR and AR to go mass market.

The group discussed the amount and types of data being captured by applications and services, how useful it is for data analysis, and the ethical issues tied to data collection and ownership. Lao mentioned that Verizon and many other companies have labs where they prototype and test out ideas. Verizon has a 5G-enabled experimental content creation lab in Playa Vista, California.

If students come up with ideas that support Verizon’s rollout of 5G — ideas that take advantage of high bandwidth and low latency — then the ETC can facilitate discussions with Verizon and other member companies to potentially provide resources for the students to build them out into prototypes.

For more of the discussion, check out the 8-minute highlight video online.

The ETC@USC’s Executive Coffee with… Series

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC produced a series of virtual “executive coffee discussions” during the Fall semester. These one-hour discussions provide an opportunity for students and ETC member company executives to connect and discuss topics of mutual interest during this period of remote learning and social distancing.

For each session an executive posed one question or topic, students from across USC submitted brief statements of interest, and the ETC invited between 5 and 16 students to participate in the Zoom meeting. Each session was recorded and an 8- to 13-minute highlight video was produced.

The sessions were hosted by Verizon (September 23), Universal Pictures (September 29 and October 9), Fox Corporation (October 14), Equinix (October 22), ETC execs (October 29), Vubiquity (November 4) and Dolby Labs (November 12).

The videos are available on the Executive Coffee with… page online.