ETC Executive Coffee: Verizon on the Future of Entertainment

To kick off ETC@USC’s five-part Spring 2021 Executive Coffee with… series, Serhad Doken, executive, innovation and product realization at Verizon, led a Zoom discussion on March 15. “Expectations for the Future of Entertainment and UI/UX design” was the framing question for a wide-ranging discussion. Six students from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Viterbi School of Engineering, and the Iovine and Young Academy participated. Topics included user experience expectations, VR and 5G, “gaming” the algorithm, recommendations versus serendipity, artists earning a living, and what experiences have yet to be adopted.

Jennifer Jing, a senior focused on product design at Iovine and Young, stated that user interface and user experience design for virtual and augmented reality is still very much related to game design. It doesn’t map well to app design, so there is an opportunity for the next generation of UI and UX designers to bridge this gap.

Engineering graduate student Heather Giles is very interested in UI and UX design that accommodates people with disabilities in ways that make them equally capable with people without disabilities. She gave excellent examples of the range of disabilities that should be taken into account, including visual and audio processing issues and migraine triggers.

A common approach to platforms among this group of students involved multiple social media accounts with distinct identities.

Azin Behbahani, an Iovine and Young graduate student, explained why she intentionally established two TikTok accounts with separate and distinct identities — one for fun and one for work. The TikTok algorithm makes very different recommendations. She is able to get exposure to two targeted types of content and her followers get two very different impressions of her from the accounts.

Elijah Yap, an engineering sophomore, has two Twitter accounts — one for professional activities like programming discussions and one for fun. Only the professional account is under his real name because that’s the one he wants employers to find.

Giles pointed out that the platforms want users to have a single account so they can get to know you better, but users want multiple accounts so they can tailor the accounts to their interests. The students were divided on whether an element of serendipity in search and recommendation results would be a good thing.

Looking to the future, Cinematic Arts junior Daisy Bell hopes VR and AR will develop in ways that will optimize our human experience. Jing expects a post-pandemic digital recession and a spike in in-real-life human interaction for a while.

Doken described Verizon’s strategy for rolling out 5G throughout the U.S. Urban areas will have the highest level of 5G, enabling seamless VR and AR experiences with near-zero latency.

For more of the discussion, check out the 9-minute highlight video online.

The ETC@USC’s Executive Coffee with… Series

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC produced its second series of virtual “executive coffee discussions” during the Spring 2021 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 6 and 12 students to participate in the Zoom meeting. Each session was recorded and a 7- to 10-minute highlight video was produced.

The sessions included: Verizon — “Expectations for Entertainment and UI/UX” (March 15), Verizon — “What Comes After Zoom and Entertainment Apps” (March 24), Warner Bros. — “AI and Ethics” (March 30), Disney — “The Future of Immersive Media Storytelling” (April 7), and Warner Bros. — “The Post-Pandemic Future of Virtual Production” (April 21).

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