Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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MoviePass founder Stacy Spikes on the MovieCrash documentary

This week, Devindra and Engadget’s Nathan Ingraham discuss the new Max documentary “MoviePass, MovieCrash” and reminisce about the early days of that wild startup. It was a huge mess in the end, but we wouldn’t have subscription plans in theaters without it. We also chat with MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes, as well as the documentary’s director, Muta’Ali, about the film.

In other news, Nate explains why Google is adding a slew of AI features to Chromebook Plus notebooks, and we dive into the Fitbit Ace with LTE, which has the potential to be a very useful smartwatch tracker for kids.

Listen below or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you’ve got suggestions or topics you’d like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcast, Engadget News!

  • Moviepass, MovieCrash interview with CEO Stacy Spikes and director Muta’Ali – 1:33

  • Chromebook Plus laptops are getting AI features soon – 41:43

  • WWDC is scheduled for June 10 – 56:26

  • Cherlynn’s Fitbit Ace LTE hands-on : a fitness tracker for kids! – 59:55

  • Sony pulls “fabricated” interview with Last of Us creator Neil Druckman – 1:03:44

  • Vox Media and The Atlantic magazine made content deals with OpenAI – 1:08:06

  • OpenAI’s new safety team includes members of the company’s board and Sam Altman himself – 1:13:30

  • Listener Mailbag: Windows screen readers on ARM and the iPad as a full-fledged work machine – 1:14:41

  • Working on – 1:23:24

  • Pop culture picks – 1:25:10

Hosts: Devindra Hardawar and Nathan Ingraham
Producer: Ben Ellman
Music: Dale North and Terrence O’Brien

Devindra: What’s up, Internet, and welcome back to the Engadget Podcast. I’m Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar. Joining me today is Deputy Editor Nathan Ingraham. Hey, Nate.

Nathan: Hey, Devindra. Good morning, and good morning to our listeners.

Devindra: Good morning. Happy holiday week, too. It’s a bit of a short week here. Not as much news as we typically get, but this is a good time to talk about this documentary that just came out on Max’s MoviePass Movie Crash.

It’s about that subscription movie theater startup, which I think everybody, a lot of people were into way back when, and I have a lot of fond memories about it too. We’ll talk about that thing and also the story of MoviePass. And we also have an interview with the co founder and current CEO of MoviePass, Stacy Spikes and the director of the documentary, Muta’Ali.

So stay tuned for that. We’ll also be talking about some Chromebook Plus news getting getting AI features. And Nate, I feel like you’re the person to talk to about that because you love Chromebooks.

Nathan: I do. I still do. And I’ve been checking them out for a few days here. I was away. But got home to new hardware and I’ve been playing around with it and I have a few initial thoughts.

Devindra: Okay, we’ll do that I feel like nate if you’re gonna get any if you’re gonna get a tattoo of any kind You would probably get a chrome symbol tattoo for chromebook chrome I would do a chrome

Nathan: next to an apple

Devindra: just to mess with people just to mess with people That would be the way to do it as always folks If you’re enjoying the show, please be sure to subscribe to us in itunes Or your podcaster of choice, leave us a review on iTunes.

Drop us an email at podcast@engadget.com. We’ve got some great reader emails this week too. So we’ll talk about that towards the end of the episode. Let’s talk about MoviePass Movie Crash. And this is a movie that’s out now on Max, the one to watch for HBO. And I think it’s pretty good. It’s a good exploration of what the hell happened at MoviePass.

And. I’ll tell you all I have I have a lot of feelings about Movie Pass because I’m also a movie critic. I’ve done a movie podcast since 2008. Movie Pass was also something I started writing about before they were even like a major thing. So in 2012, I met with Stacy Spikes, the one of the founders, and, we had a good discussion about movies and about his own background, because he was also a movie executive and a music producer too, or a music executive. So he’s somebody from the movie industry who loves movies and wanted to like. Change the way the whole like movie paradigm work, especially how theaters work.

I feel like we may take it for granted today, folks, but if you look around, like every major theater chain has a subscription plan, for 20 or 30 bucks a month, you get all you can eat movies. Maybe some wiggle room around pricing and stuff there. Before MoviePass, none of that existed. And that the whole idea of paying a flat fee for all you can eat movies was just like something the entire industry was totally against.

When MoviePass launched it was like a 50 plan. You had to bring a sheet of paper to the box office and they tell like type something in to get you the ticket. It wasn’t great. It took a while for things to get going. Then they did this thing where. They started, they had the card, they got the debit card going, and they got a patent for the ability to automatically fund the debit card based on your location.

And nobody had ever done that before. So like that movie pass app, 2013, 2014, that was the point where they were like, okay, you have to check into the movie theater and then pick a time. And then you get your ticket. That whole technique had never existed before. So that was like the thing that kind of got them to 500, 000 users.

The growth was not great for a while because it was still 40 to 50 in many places. Then Stacy spikes got pushed out. He was replaced by a new CEO named Mitch Lowe. He’s a guy coming out of red box and Netflix. And then things got crazy because Mitch Lowe talked about, do you remember this Nate?

Like Mitch Lowe had the like 100 plan and the 50 plan. Yeah. Like as soon as he came on, it went nowhere. And then why do we know why I don’t think anybody wants to pay a hundred bucks a month. I wasn’t, I love movies. I love going to the theater. I would not pay a hundred bucks a month for this. Then they came up with the 10 a month, all you can eat movie plan, right?


Nathan: when I remember starting to really hear about it. That’s when the buzz broke out. Cause that was so cheap.

Devindra: That was the buzz. And that was pretty much, that was all Mitch Lowe and eventually his like co CEO Ted Farnsworth, who came from HMNY, which was this like. I guess it was like a private equity firm.

It was a whole thing. Things got really confusing, but explosive growth. That’s exactly what startups wanted to see in the mid 2010s. Doesn’t matter if your business model sustainable. It doesn’t matter if they’re paying full prices for these tickets, but they’re losing money. They’re burning, literally setting money on fire to get these users.

And I think a lot of people within the company raised concerns like, Hey, this is not sustainable. And Mitch Lowe and Ted’s farm were were basically. Pedal to the metal. Let’s just go all the way. See how far this goes. Is it fair

Nathan: to say that Stacy’s plan was more sustainable and that’s probably why it didn’t get the big growth, but it could have just continued on.

At that point and possibly it could have found a smaller audience,

Devindra: as, so as I hear it and Hey, we have an interview with Stacey and the director of this documentary in this episode. But as I heard it, and as he explains it, like that was what he was saying. It was like, Oh, this 10 thing was going to be.

A temporary measure. Let’s get those users. Let’s get some buzz and then switch over to 20 or 30 a month and be more sustainable so we can actually afford to keep this business afloat and Mitchell and Ted’s Farnsworth just never really did that. They kept getting more money and burning it all.

And watching this documentary just brought up a lot of feelings for me, namely, because I remember being really pissed off about this whole story, because first of all, Stacey Spikes is a rare black entrepreneur in the startup world, and you never really see that. So I was like, it’s cool that MoviePass is a thing coming from black founders and was like finding some success.

He was pushed out for Mitch Lowe. All of a sudden the like demographic of the executive board looks very different. They get, they immediately get the funding that Stacey Spikes and his original founder couldn’t get. They were struggling to even get documentary gets into this, I hope. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s the whole thing.

And this is it’s an infuriating documentary because it’s just these guys made a really cool idea, like a really cool business that reshaped the theatrical model completely. They couldn’t actually get the money for it because nobody was funding them. Which just really sucks.

Nathan: Yeah, I guess there’s a lot of people only remember them from that sort of boom phase when it was 10 bucks a month and even then, people were asking like, how is this possibly going to be sustainable?

Cause I didn’t know about that prior history so much. And so that makes me really intrigued to see the whole thing play out.

Devindra: It’s the whole thing. It’s a good documentary. I also wrote a piece like back then, Nate, adding gadget called movie past died so cinemas can live. And I feel like that still resonates today, to be honest.

This documentary is worth a watch. I think it’s great where things are right now. C. Spikes ended up buying the like remnants of the company at auction for a low price and he’s resurrecting it now. I think at a more sustainable price, it’s 30 to 40 a month. It’s run it using credits instead of just giving you the full money for a ticket.

So I’ve not used the new movie pass yet. We’ll see where that goes. But hey, theatrical subscription plans. Like I think those are great deals. If you go to the movie theater two or three times a month. Yes, absolutely. You have one. Yeah. I use the my local theaters are regal. So I use it regal and limited.

I think they call it. But in New York, I was all about the AMCA list. Like that was the thing. If you go to a movie theater two or three times a month, these subscriptions are totally worth it. I have to go. Almost every, almost once a week, almost multiple times a week for things I need to review.

And I think this documentary is worth a watch. So here, check out our interview. Stacy Spikes and Muta’Ali. Thank you so much for joining us on the Engadget podcast. Thanks Devinder. I’m glad to be here. Happy to chat with you guys and Stacey, let me lay out some history for our listeners here. I remember sitting down with you in my office when I was working at VentureBeat, it was like 2012 and you were laying out the pitch for MoviePass for me.

I was a movie podcaster at the time, still am, but it was blowing my mind to see the convergence of my interests of the movie side and the tech side of things. So we have been talking a while. I’ve seen the ups and downs of MoviePass, I’m just wondering at this point, you have resurrected MoviePass, not to spoil the ending of this movie, but if people have seen the news, you’ve resurrected MoviePass, you’re doing something new right now, how is the new iteration of MoviePass going?

Stacy Spikes: It’s going great and yeah we have been talking and on this journey together for a while, but the The difference when we brought it back was we added some features that we knew we needed back in 2016 before the takeover, but hadn’t had the opportunity to deploy. So one of the things was adding a credit system so that Where there’s savings for the company, we’re able to display that savings for the consumer and create alignment where the previous iteration really didn’t share that you went in the app and you didn’t know, Hey, is movie pass paying full price for this ticket or wholesale for that ticket?

And so now the credit system creates that alignment. And that was a really big differentiator from B1 to B2.

Devindra: Gotcha. Yeah, I’ve, I was noticed that I have not tested out the new version of MoviePass yet, and I also have a lot of questions about how the theater chains ended up responding to you guys too.

But let’s talk about this documentary in particular MoviePass, MovieCrash. Devindra, I’m wondering what brought you to this project and this story?

Muta’Ali: It was the writing of Jason Guerrasio at Business Insider producer Scott Beltry gave me a call and asked me to read the article about MoviePass and I had heard about MoviePass but I was never a member.

And once I read his article and learned a little bit about Stacey and Aimee and the journey of MoviePass, I said, wow I’m surprised I didn’t know this. I wish that I did. And I think a whole lot of other people would want to know more about this. And so that kind of got me my gears going and after a while, I, I took in a lot of information about when we did a lot of research and joined the team over at unrealistic ideas Mark Warburg’s studio.

And together we developed a way to tell this story. And shortly within that period after a short period of time. I got to meet Stacey over Zoom and really was, obviously impressed by him, impressed by his journey and got a little bit more of an inside look at what had transpired and I was like wow, okay this story is definitely something that I think needs to be told.

Devindra: Yeah. Devindra, I have to wonder, where were you when MoviePass was at its rise? I’m wondering how you missed it. Were you, are you in New York? Everybody was talking about MoviePass. It was a wild time. But also, it felt wilder to me as somebody who was covering the beginning, too, and being like, this is a good idea.

It’s struggling. It needs some legs. But it was wild to see it really take off. So let’s talk about Kind of the history of MoviePass and how things started and your background, Stacey, too. I was fascinated to hear that you were a studio executive. Who came into this at Miramax, right?

And you had gained a reputation within Hollywood. You wanted to do something that’s around movie subscriptions. And I think when we first talked, this was before the debit card idea. This was the idea that you would check in online and bring, I think it was like you had to bring a printout right to the box office to have them to do the Yeah, basically create a ticket for you.

We talked in 2012 about that idea. It was cool, but it was like 50 at the time. It was a little clunky, but then you guys did. The debit card idea, which I think was the killer thing that kind of helped make it all easier for consumers. But you also had some trouble with the movie theater chains I remember the back and forth like you guys would launch and then the theater chains would be like no We don’t want this at all.

Can you talk about the early turmoil of even making movie past the thing?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, so Really good History overview there. But so there was a few iterations. So the very first version we went through movie tickets. com and movie tickets was largely owned by AMC. And when we launched AMC got upset and turned us off.

Like we literally were born. On Thursday and got turned off by them on Friday. The next day we had done a premiere and a press event in San Francisco, and this was on a Thursday and we’re going to let people in on beta. And then the next morning AMC released an announcement that slow, slow down.

You’re I was a little confused by that, by

Devindra: the way, because like they had to approve this in the beginning. They had to know this was happening. I don’t understand how it was like an overnight thing where they’re like, Oh crap, what did we approve here?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, because we couldn’t, a lot of people said how did you do this without their approval?

You can’t get API access to someone’s code without their approval. So there was I think the left hand and the right hand had not communicated very well. And so I think the high, the lower end of the spectrum knew about it and thought, Hey, someone’s helping to drive traffic to theaters. But I think when senior management got involved and they saw Netflix for movies, theaters splashed across headlines it was like, wait, how did we not know about this?

I think they just thought we were just going to buy some tickets through their API. And so we had to do some things in the interim, which were absurd. Like you would print out a single use credit card, which basically was, you were printing out a one time use number, going to the box office, having them punch that in manually.

On a Friday night when there’s a line of people and theaters are like, we really don’t like this idea. And then that’s where the card got born. We knew we needed to create something that was an an OTT platform that would work seamless. And we knew credit cards or debit cards was the way in. Cause every theater had a kiosk or they

Devindra: couldn’t really control that either.

Like you, Everybody needs to be able to use their debit cards at these things. Yeah.

Stacy Spikes: So that, that was really the the inflection point that it was unstoppable because every theater, a customer, so we’re doing a deal with the customer, they get issued a card and they can go buy a ticket at whatever theater they want.

So really the theater would be rejecting their own customer, whether they were paying with their debit card. Their regular MasterCard or say a movie past MasterCard.

Devindra: And the theater is getting a full price ticket purchase too. So it’s not like you were getting discounted tickets. I want to set up the context here too, because I think in 2024, the landscape of cinemas looks really different.

We are post pandemic. Cinemas are hurting, but there’s also kind of people have a love for it now of like almost losing it. So people want to support the cinemas. Every major theater chain has their own subscription program. And I feel like that never, that wouldn’t have happened if MoviePass hadn’t come out and had shown them that there was a demand for this.

And also you guys had done a study that showed if people had like an all you can eat subscription, it actually drives up revenue for the theaters because people go and buy more concessions and it just ends up working out that way. Stacey, let’s talk about the card in particular, and this is where we get a little nerdy, because I remember when you first presented the idea to me, the idea was, you have this debit card, the app knows your location, it knows you’re at the theater, you say you’re going to go see a movie, MoviePass puts money on the card at that instant.

And then you pay for your ticket and that’s something that’s like instant transactional stuff on to a debit card had never been done before you guys got a patent for it that seemed pretty fascinating at the time.

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So what we did was we needed to geolocate.

every single theater in North America, Alaska and Hawaii. And then we had to be able, so there was all of these challenges, like if the theater was inside of a mall, right? But the geolocation was to be able to say I am at this theater and in the app, you’re corresponding. Your selection choice is that theater.

So that’s one verification. The second verification is that there is an MCC code, which is a merchant category code that you’re at a theater, not a gas station or a bowling alley or a pizza place. So that was the second thing you needed. And then. The third was that your account was in good standing and those three things cross referencing each other authorized the ability to get your ticket.

So for the first time no one had done real time geolocation based authentication to unlock currency. And so what we were doing was we really were a fintech company. Underneath we, cause you can use it for any industry. But companies like four square and other were using check ins, location check ins.

And so that was the beginning of what we started to use. And there was layers on top of it. The first version of the card, people could share the same card. So college students signed up and

Speaker: yeah,

Stacy Spikes: they would all log into the app with the same login. So we had to. We had to make it that the phone, not your account, went to the theater, your phone went to the theater, and then we saw fraud drop because people will give you their card, but they’re not going to give you their phone.

Devindra: Yeah very smart idea. So at that point you had the fully formed idea of what MoviePass could be, and I think I was in New York at the time, it seemed hey, among the movie people I knew I knew pretty well, Pretty much a lot of the film critics, the young folks film Twitter, as they call it we were all about movie pass at the time, but growth for you guys as a company had stagnated and it seemed like your investors wanted to go a step further.

So that’s where Mitchell appeared. Mitchell came in coming from red box. Supposedly with a Netflix background to you. I do like how you guys bring that up in the documentary. But Mitchell is this guy who basically created the idea that set movie pass on fire, the idea of a 10 subscription, unlimited movies, all you can eat.

And I remember the exact moment Stacey, when that news hit and I was like, Oh, that’s cool. That’s going to get hype, but that’s clearly unsustainable.

Stacy Spikes: There’s a step in between there. So when Mitch first came on, Mitch actually went in the other direction. He went up to almost a hundred dollar plan.

So the unlimited was a hundred dollars and then he put in. Some capped plans. And so he went totally in the other direction, right? I think we had launched at 50 and brought it down to 30. So he went totally in the other direction. Then when HMNY came in, Ted and that group said, We want to be the same price as Netflix.

It’s all they cared about. And it was 95. And then boom, that was, and like you said, it was never meant to be permanent. It was meant to be a promotional announcement that. We did this deal in this merger and this is like our coming out and it’s a temporary price point. And then what was going to happen was that was your first month.

And then you were going to normalize, but they said, wow, we did a hundred thousand people in 48 hours. Let’s just keep it there. And that’s when I was like, wait, but That’s not sustainable. And that was literally, that was the moment the ship pointed towards the edge of the cliff. It seems like

Devindra: either it’s like, they noticed it was now a runaway train thanks to this price and this growth.

But rather than be like let’s stop before we fall off a cliff. They were like, let’s keep going. This is the mentality, by the way, like I have been covering startups since 2010. Like this was the era of growth at all costs, right? User growth at all costs. Startups were getting money and this is a story of Uber and Lyft and pretty much all the major ones now to Facebook, the same thing they weren’t actually making money, right?

They weren’t making much revenue, but they were getting a ton of funding in to establish this user base. And for a lot of startups, that was what they wanted more than Actual, a functional business. And I think that’s what they ended up turning into. Mutually. I have to ask you how did you guys get Mitch low to even cooperate with this documentary?

Because he does not come off looking good. And I think a lot of people can paint him as like a major villain in this story, actually.

Muta’Ali: Yeah. I don’t think he comes off. The way he might want to have come off. At the time, Mitch was pitching a book, I forget the name of it, but he was in his book, I think.

Oh, of course he

Speaker: is.

Muta’Ali: Yeah, he was I think how he disrupted Hollywood or something like that. It was the whole vibe of the book. The

Devindra: Redbox plan, like his, the idea was like a dollar a disc, I believe that was his idea. The stuff from him. Yeah.

Muta’Ali: Possibly. Yeah. And so that he was on that sort of press run.

And so Jason again, at Business Insider connected our team with him because, as in a promotion of his book, he was talking to press and, This was before charges were filed though. And so he was less apprehensive as he would have been say we, if we approached him a week or so later.

So when we interviewed him none of the charges that you see listed on the screen at the end of the film were a reality. And so I think. He felt I, in my interpretation that he had reached a point in his life where he was wanting to atone. He had this sort of Zen sort of spirit about him and I, I appreciate that.

And so I think that put him in a position where he was like, sure I’ll grant you the interview. And it was odd at the end of the interview, I had the sense that he was being honest with us to a certain degree, but I also had the sense that he might’ve been Less, less aware of the effect he had on things than I expected him to be.

Speaker: And

Muta’Ali: so that, that was a little bit off putting. And I think that comes across when I watch it in the theater with audiences, they’re a little bit surprised at the stance he takes and how cavalierly he speaks about yeah. Certain turning points in MoviePass.

Devindra: Yeah, it’s it’s a bit baffling, basically as you talk more and more with him.

I have to say, I remember the first time I interviewed Mitch Lowe, too, I think it was after they pushed you out, Stacey. But sitting down, I was like, I was a little okay, who is this guy? I knew MoviePass. I know what MoviePass is about. I don’t know this guy. I sit down and talk with him, and I know the difference between people who love the industry that they’re in and who believe in the product.

And the marketing people and the marketing people who are just like, Oh yeah growth. We know exactly how we’re going to attain the metrics we need to be more popular. And it felt like from the instant I started talking with Mitch was like, Oh yeah, he doesn’t. Doesn’t even actually get movies.

I think, I don’t think he actually even loves the product. He just likes the fact that he’s as part of this. So I think like when I saw that news, Stacey, it broke my heart because as somebody covering startups in tech, I don’t see many startups founded by black founders, and this was one that had a great idea.

It was about something I personally loved, but I also knew there was potential to be great here. Can you talk about that moment? The moment of. Basically, when Mitch Lowe told you that you had to leave the own company, the company that you founded.

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, it was quite bizarre. So there were, there was over a two month period.

The first wave was they told Himay and I on our December board call we had just hit a million subs.

Devindra: That’s co founder Humei Watt, by the way, yeah.

Stacy Spikes: Yeah. So yeah, my co founder Humei Watt. And so on that board call they said, listen, we really like what you guys have done. HMNY is coming in. There’s a total of five seats and it was Mitch had one seat.

Chris Kelly had two seats and then there was Humei and I. And so they said, we’re going to give your seats, to HMMY. And we said expand the board. Why are you going to take off the founders? And Mitch said I don’t want anyone, he literally said, I don’t want anyone who works for me on the board.

It was like, okay. That was a bizarre comment, and we just agreed to disagree, and then afterwards, we went into Christmas, and January 8th, When we came back from the holidays. So it was the first, I think, not on Monday, but Tuesday, the second day back, I literally got an email that said, thank you for your service at MoviePass.

You’re you’re no longer needed and there’ll be someone coming into your office, so please pack up. We’ll be in touch. That it was just an email that just said that. Not even in person, brutal.

Devindra: You also, you talked about I think something Mitch said to you coming up when he came on as CEO and you were basically, I think, demoted to CEO.

That’s at least how it felt to me from the outside. He said you were on parole, like as if like he didn’t know if we were going to keep you here.

Stacy Spikes: Yeah. Yeah. So the first meeting we had was with. We was in San Francisco and Chris Kelly was on zoom and we were in Mitch and I were in a conference room and then Mitch flew out to meet the whole team in New York cause the company was always New York based.

And when we get there, he said, I want to meet with you before we go. And I’m going to meet each of the members of the team individually. He said, so going forward I’m going to have you be the director of marketing. I’ll give you a higher position if I feel that it’s deserved. Ah, but consider that you’re on probation at this point, and depending upon the performance.

I and I was just like, that’s where when Ali’s interviewing me and he talks about the the the peel sketch, the key and peel sketch, can

Devindra: you give us a, can you give us a glimpse of what you were actually thinking and feeling at the time?

Stacy Spikes: I think you, you just don’t have to be a jerk, right?

We, there was Kumbaya. We were like, great. Maybe having some gray hair and he might bring like, why are you coming aggressive that way where we’re already said, great. Come on into the company. It just seemed unnecessary. And. Like a bad start of something. And so they ended up realizing they needed me a lot more and there were some things going on and I decided I was going to walk away and exit.

And then they said no we’ll make you COO. Just don’t leave. And and, but it was just out of the gate. It was like just bad form in my head.

Devindra: Like you can certainly tell at that point. And we should talk about like, why is it’s Chris Kelly, your investor who really wanted somebody else to come in and lead the company.

And he liked Mitchell coming out of red box and other things that he’s done. But you guys had trouble. You had a lot of trouble getting funding early on, even though. I think you had worked on some really interesting tech. You had proven that the product was really viable too, and good for theaters.

Can you talk about that aspect of it, of not actually being able to get the funding and, Hey, a white CEO comes in along with, Ted Farnsworth down the line, And then all of a sudden it is, it’s like money is being thrown at them, or at least they are getting a lot more funding almost instantly.

Like they could snap their fingers and get money. That just seemed wild to me.

Stacy Spikes: I think Devindra did, this was one of our biggest, both concerns, but needs is you have to tell. Different than a lot of tech stories. You’ve got to tell a bit of a layered story here that there’s two stories happening all the time.

Founders get ousted. It can be from bad behavior or you just not hitting metrics and investors get a little tired of you. But Devindra had to walk this really fine line of telling a true fact that minority investors do not get access to capital in the same way. You just don’t. And the numbers are like

Devindra: shocking, right?

It is like basically 3 percent for women and minority founders, right? It’s women,

Stacy Spikes: women and minorities combined. Is only 3%. And so I may, and I were very seasoned professionals. And we talk about this in the doc. Between boys to men and my music career and my film career, I had gross more than 3 billion in sales across the assets I had done, all before I was, 30.

So that’s that’s, you were one

Devindra: of the 30 under 30 profile. Yeah.

Stacy Spikes: So you can walk in the room and at least get some respect. If you can say I grossed a billion, a 3 billion, but it was just like, wow, why we’re creating a Netflix for movie theaters and Netflix was hot as hell.

And. There was this category in this lane and we had finally figured the tech out and you’re just asking yourself why are we having such a tough time? And I think Devindra just does an incredible job about that. And he can talk about it, but he just walks the line that you don’t feel.

You don’t feel the volatility, but you do get the message that he’s trying to deliver.

Muta’Ali: Yeah,

Devindra: can you talk about how you conveyed that, Motele?

Muta’Ali: Yeah, it was a balancing act in, in terms of what, how much do we put in about that subject. And I think speaking with Stacey and Jaume I think I checked in a couple times to see how they felt about things.

I, I didn’t want the film to end and people get, get want to reverse engineer, like back up away from arguments people might have when the credits roll Oh, they made it all about race and all this stuff. And I didn’t, and I don’t think Stacey and Norha may. who walk into a room and, race is like the top of mind.

I do think though that the film conveys on a few sides that people’s biases play a role in how they initially categorize somebody. And in the, I think Mitch’s ability to come across a certain way in terms of his appearance, and also Ted Farnsworth’s ability, gave them a benefit of the doubt when you could argue that they maybe didn’t, that wasn’t warranted.

It’s just the

Devindra: ability to like, cosplay success, basically. Hey, walk into a room and be like, hey, I’m, look at me. I got all this money, I got this company, I’m successful, let’s party. Whereas you guys were like, no. Stacey like you guys were hustling to get the thing done to make a viable product and you love movies and it couldn’t Happen there

Muta’Ali: and I often told myself and I haven’t said in a while But I felt like it was people pursuing the American dream Yeah people regardless and these people other people who came from another world where they took advantage of others who had something unique I think there’s certain categories of people who come up with something extremely unique.

And Stacey and Hameid did that. And other categories of people, I know I’m being judgmental, just know how to exploit it. And I think exploitation can be positive, if you want to make the best of a product and take it to where it needs to go. But it also can be negative, especially if you know how to work around the financial system the way that some people know.


Devindra: just feels I don’t know, I don’t know if this phrase has been coined yet, but it feels like startup colonialism. In the way that there are all these resources and all these things happening. Wow. There’s a lot of value here. Let’s mine that value. Let’s have a ton of parties. And that basically the movie really conveys this of Mitchell and Ted Farnworth basically spending a lot of the money and capital of movie past the brand within a year.

To the point where it had to declare bankruptcy. You brought up some interesting numbers in the movie, Stacey. Like how much money were they losing per month versus how much money you guys were losing per month when you were in charge?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah. So when we were in charge, our burn was 200, 000 a month.

And when Mitch and Ted were running it. It was around 34 million a month. And the crazy thing was the crazy thing was what there’s only a month and a half difference. From when they announced that they were buying us to being able to raise 150 million, it’s the same company. You scratch your head wait, the brand was that strong that they were able to raise that kind of money.

What changed? The only change was the melanin of two. So the company was still the same, that everyone running it was still the same, but these guys walked in the room and were like, we’re here, and give us some money. And that was very eye opening. And I think you, you talked about colonialism, but I think it’s very similar.

To the early days when you had Jackie Robinson or players starting to show up on the field that looked different than what people are used to seeing. And there’s a harder road that those early guys have to go. But if you can create innovation, I think that the more you can People like him and I show up the more in the venture capital will become colorblind, but there’s still a, you don’t quite look the role of what we imagine.

And even if it’s 50 or 60 years old and mentioned Ted, it was, that’s closer than what we think you are. You definitely are much further away from this ideal of colorblindness. What we think success could look like.

Devindra: Gotcha. Gotcha. It is. That’s a sad story. Basically, I think that’s seeing the rise or like basically the rocket ship growth of MoviePass and realizing from the beginning that it wasn’t sustainable.

I felt really bad, first of all, that they had pushed you out, Stacey, but also that they were just like running the idea of MoviePass into the ground. And then there were the issues of basically not not letting the tickets work for certain things, which is I think it was the Mission Impossible movie at the time.

That was probably Fallout. But that’s part of where we are now. And where we are now is MoviePass declared bankruptcy Ted Farnsworth from HMNY who had basically acquired MoviePass, or absorbed it in a way, and Mitch Lowe are now, they’ve both been indicted, right? So we’re still waiting to see what happens with them.

That’s a whole thing, but I think The sort of phoenix rising out of the ashes story here is that you’ve brought MoviePass back, Stacey, you are doing your own thing with it I know it’s only in limited markets right now, but can you tell us like how is, how are things going now with the new movie pass?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, so 2023 we opened in May nationwide, so now you can get it anywhere in the country. And we ended 2023 at a 23% profit margin. It was the first time in the history of the company that we’ve had a profitable year. And it’s all due to the machine learning and AI systems that we built in place, and we’ve always been.

A FinTech company under the hood. And so a lot of the tech that wasn’t there. And like you talked about at the end, at the beginning, the theaters are also in a different place, post COVID everyone’s willing to experiment. And I think film fans are also used to subscription now as a concept.

So the headwinds the same headwinds aren’t there and you can get much more down to business of tightening the screws and making sure the plane flies. So it’s quite extraordinary. We’re out. Raising around and raising capital. And it’s good to be in a market that we want to help the industry get back up on its feet and go back to our critical mission of what we’re doing to build the largest out of home cinema subscription company that there is.

Devindra: I guess final question for you too. It’s like I mentioned, like every major theater chain now has their own subscription plan and down here I have a regal close to me, so I’m using their thing, but AMC has had a list for a while. And even that kind of became a meme, at least among, I don’t know, movie Twitter people.

This would not have happened with that movie pass. But how do you compete against that now? Because they can offer, I think, cheaper prices and it’s less of a hurt for the theater chains to do it, right? Because it’s their own money. It’s not like they’re, it’s not like they’re really giving up that much, I think, in the end, and they ultimately get more concessions out of it.

So how are you guys competing with the homegrown theater subscriptions?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah. So the way the marketplace looks at it is they are loyalty programs, so you can only use them at that theater. So with us, you can go wherever you want. So I can have my AMC Stubbs, but use my MoviePass MasterCard and I can still get my points.

So I’m a Regal Crown Club member and I am an AMC Stubbs member. And even though I’m using my MoviePass, I’m getting points. So from a marketplace perspective, we see ourselves like the Airbnb of sales. Cinema where on it’s a market where there is a buyer and a seller. So there is the theater where you’re going to go in the same way.

There is a home that you will rent and there is a person who wants to. go to a theater and you’re going to rent that seat for two hours, let’s say. So we’re more like Airbnb where you can just go wherever you want. And then we drive that traffic on top of that. We’re also partnering with certain theaters.

that we display in the app where you are, we are buying wholesale from them and we’re driving traffic right into them. So think of the universe where AMC, Regal, and Cinemark make up 50%. The other 50 percent really don’t have the money to put millions of dollars in to manage a app that lets you be a subscriber.

So we’re their app. And then there’s the big three. And you, in the MoviePass universe, you can use it all. So the stat that we found was 75 percent of customers said they’d rather a one size fits all app versus an app that they can only use for one theater. So that’s our market position which is slightly different.

Devindra: Totally makes sense. Okay. Yeah. Looking forward to seeing where it goes, Stacy and Devindra. And anything else you want to mention about this project or what you’re working on next?

Muta’Ali: No, I just want to encourage people to check it out on HBO and on, on Max, it comes out on May 29th. So I hope you enjoy.

Devindra: Thank you both so much for joining us and yeah, good luck with everything guys. Thank you. Divindra, thank you so much.

Speaker 6: Hey, Producer Ben here with a note. You might notice that there is something a little different about Mr. Nate Ingram’s voice for the next 40 minutes or so. We had our fingers crossed that the construction outside his window wouldn’t start until after we were done recording. But we didn’t get that lucky.

There were big saws and a jackhammer. You could hear it on livestream. But you’ll barely be able to hear it in the podcast because Audio Cleanup has gotten that good. We tried three different cleanup programs, two of which were powered by machine learning, and picked what sounded best. We’ll talk more about Audio Cleanup next week, and you’ll find out what app saved this nigh unsalvageable audio.

Thanks. Back to the show.

Devindra: Okay. Let’s move on to some other news this week. And we got a bunch of news from Google. Apparently they’re bringing a slew of AI powered features to Chromebook plus laptops that you’re the perfect person here because, okay, first of all, remind us what Chromebook plus laptops are and also what are these features?

What’s going on here?

Nathan: Yeah. So backing up a little bit last fall, Google and its hardware partners introduced Chromebook plus, which was basically a designation to say it meets a number of minimum specs, including at least an i3 processor, at least eight gigs of Ram. At least a 1080p display and there’s a certain webcam spec it meets as well.

Obviously there’s a million Chromebooks on the market varying price points, lots of really cheap crappy ones, a handful of more expensive, higher quality ones. And this is meant to say like this spec, you’re getting a certain level of performance and so forth.

And. So I think that’s a good thing. You know that if you’re buying one of those, it should run pretty well. You’re going to get the long, I think like 10 years of support they do now. At the time they announced, they were also going to bring some AI features to Chromebooks. And this month they actually released a lot of those.

There’s basically three, there’s three main things. One is like just a fun image generator you can use to make wallpapers and video backgrounds. There’s like a handful of different styles and you just put in, I want a mountainscape with a purple lake in the front or that sort of thing.

Devindra: Okay, cool. Nate Chromebook plus also a style of Chromebooks that I was always a little skeptical about too. I don’t think we have any sense of like how many people are actually buying these things. My thing is I know a thing is successful when I start to see it out in the wild with normal people.

I rarely see people outside of schools and businesses actually using Chromebooks, so certainly have not seen any Chromebook plus models either. In terms of these features, they seem cool, but also I guess I can’t get really excited about it, right? Like I don’t. Yeah. And Microsoft and all the other AI things are doing this too.

I don’t know how useful the thing of just Hey, give me more texts. All right. Write this email for me, do this stuff for me. Is actually going to be because part of communicating is sitting down and thinking about getting those words. And I understand not everybody thinks they’re a great writer or something, but I don’t know if the AI will actually help or if people actually tap into it.

Do you have any sense of that, Nate? Have you used, you’ve been experimenting with some AI words lately we’ve seen in our Slack channel. Do you have a sense of like how people are using these things yet?

Nathan: Yeah. So what the feature is it’s called help me write and it’s system wide. So any text entry box, whether it’s in a web app or an Android app or a, web form like LinkedIn or Twitter, you can write something in there and then click the help me write, and you can have it punch it up, or you can just give it a prompt and it’ll fill in the text itself.

I agree with you. I don’t, I just don’t see it being useful. Like you said, part of the point of this is as you’re writing, you sit down, you think about what you’re trying to say. I think it’s a little different for someone like you and me who make a lot of our living writing, but nonetheless, everybody communicates, everybody sends emails, everybody has thoughts in their head, and you put them down, and it sounds like you, usually, at the very least.

Whereas when you AI it, it doesn’t sound like anyone. I don’t really know what the point is of that.

Devindra: Yeah. So some of the AI texts you sent us Nate in Slack it just sounded like you were talking like Steve Rogers. You all of a sudden sounded like Captain America, hello team.

We’re going to have a great day together. We’re all going to accomplish all of our work and things like that. It just felt so disingenuous and unreal. I think the prompt there was like,

Nathan: send a heartfelt but slightly humorous greeting to my teammates as I get up this morning or something like that.

Basically, I could have just said, good morning, everyone. Not that I usually do that, I just thought it would be a funny way to kick off my little AI text experiment. I’m thinking so there’s the, help me write, there’s the AI background, which is just, for image

Devindra: generation,

Nathan: Although I’ll be with a pretty narrowly defined set of rails, like you have to, you can’t just put in whatever you want in this particular part of the tool.

But also the Chromebooks all have Gemini, the Gemini app built in now which is something, it’s the same thing. I think you’d see if you go to the Gemini site and you start. Entering your text prompts. But what’s interesting at least is that Google’s also including, if you buy a new Chromebook plus they’re including 12 months of their AI Google one plan.

So that’s a 20 buck a month plan that gives you two terabytes of storage and drive as well as access to Gemini advanced. So just from a pure, monetary standpoint, that’s a pretty good thing. And even if you never touched the Gemini advanced, The storage itself is worth, a hundred bucks a year.

So you’re getting a decent little for a decent little boost there.

Devindra: Yeah. Just for when you’re, I want to point this out and I don’t want to sound like I’m just picking on Google because I love to pick on Google especially when they have expensive products that I think have a very limited appeal.

But the whole thing about like image generation as a con, as a background creation tool, or. Also seems like a nothing burger to me. And honestly, I feel this way about co pilot and the chat GPT all this stuff, Dolly, Dolly’s like image generation too. Cool. Cool. That I can write a word, a string of texts and have a really interesting detailed image appear.

What the hell do I do with that? Am I going to use that for to send to my friends? I’m going to use it to create things, to plug into presentations. That’s what Microsoft thinks you’ll do. On Google sites, just Hey, cool backgrounds, man. Cool backgrounds for your, for your Chromebook, you could, you, five seconds, you can find a cool background image, online.

I was going to say that the

Nathan: funny thing is that I started playing around a little bit and got like a kind of a handful of kind of cool pictures, but. I would rather almost always use some of the other included wallpapers. They have a great on Chromebooks and on Android, they have an extensive image library with lots of like really gorgeous landscapes and cityscapes.

I’ve always actually really appreciated that about those devices. And so I’d much rather just use those. Then make anything with AI

Devindra: Windows and Macs, right? Like both Microsoft and Apple have done a good job of getting really cool. Nice. But photographic imagery that just looks cool. It looks chill.

Like I don’t feel like the aerials

Nathan: that they added to Mac iOS last year. Super cool. Super cool. Huge file sizes that can quickly take up your hard drive. If you. Go ham like I did and download a ton of them, that’s okay.

Devindra: Yeah, it’s the idea of the aerial stuff is good because that was taken from Apple TV 4k, but that was just like, Hey, what if video screensaver melts into photorealistic wallpaper?

Beautiful stuff.

Nathan: There was speaking of images. There was one last tool they included here. Which is Google photos the magic editor, which I believe has been available on the pixel devices for a while. And then I think more recently it’s moved to more Android devices and I think iOS as well.

But you haven’t been able to use it on a laptop until now, because you can get the Google photos app on the Chromebook. And then there you can do things like, select certain parts of the photo and move them around or resize them, change the background or the the color of the sky, that sort of thing.

I have a real issue with that, just broadly speaking, because I don’t like to Take photos and make it really easy to completely manipulate them into a reality that didn’t happen. You’re going to have a bad

Devindra: time over the next few years,

Nathan: Nate.

Devindra: Yeah. I know

Nathan: that people have been doing that on Photoshop for years, obviously.

But that takes skill and training to, to make something look good. Whereas now you can just like literally circle a person and delete them from the picture. And obviously your results will vary. I’m sure they’re not as good in real life as they are in Google’s highly controlled, demos and that sort of thing, but yeah.

Magic editor. It’s a weird one. I haven’t used it much yet. I’m going to play around that just so I can know more about it. But

Devindra: it is odd. It’s it’s odd. It’s cool image editing. Easy image editing is something a lot of people would want. So I get that. I also feel like in Google and Microsoft and everybody opening eye to, they want you to pay these monthly fees.

They want you to have. Basically pay money to get cloud powered AI going. And when there’s more stuff on device, like what Microsoft is talking about with their co pilot plus systems, maybe what we’ll see from Apple in iOS and macOS this year you won’t be paying a subscription for that. So that’s a whole other like way of positioning this stuff.

They just want you to pay more money, right? That’s it. They just want you to pay a recurring fee that you’ll pay forever because you want to. Type a string of text and make a pretty image,

Nathan: yeah. And I’m going to play around with it because I now have Gemini advance, but I opened to Gemini and I look at it and I’m like, I have no idea what I want to do with this.

Like nothing pops into my head. It’s a blank, it’s a blank canvas and I have no tools at my disposal to go at it. And I suppose maybe that’s my own limited thinking. But I just don’t see it being something I would certainly, I wouldn’t pay an extra 10 a month for. Yeah. On top of just getting Google drive storage, like right now not a factor whatsoever.

That’s how I’ve been with all AI stuff. And I think, part of that is just like personal resistance too, because I don’t see it being useful. And so I think I need to get over that a little bit and play with it more and start to try to understand what people do see in this. But, in terms of thing as a consumer product, I just don’t think it’s there yet.

It’s not even close to being something that has a clear use case that people will want to spend money on.

Devindra: These companies really want AI to be the thing like that people get excited about in all their new platforms, but it’s I don’t know how useful any of this stuff will be.

Nathan: No, and I think we’ve seen, People discuss recently how it’s really just been like a weird domino thing where it’s somebody, open AI starts doing it and then Google and Microsoft scramble to catch up because, and then all of a sudden, once they’re in, everybody’s in and now everyone’s trying to like air quotes catch up, but I don’t know if they’re trying to catch up to just, I, and I think lots of millions of other people just going on with their lives.

Doing using their computers the way they used to, this has not revolutionized anything yet. And this,

Devindra: this doesn’t change it whatsoever. I think there may be more subtle tools going on. Like right now, what we’re dealing with right now Nate, with your audio, actually your Mac, you’re using a MacBook pro.

Has certain like voice isolation capabilities. We’re not going to turn those on because our podcast editor wants clean audio to do their own. Their own edits on this stuff, but that’s the idea is that you could do maybe real time transformations on things. There are currently jackhammers outside of Nate’s window.

And if he could hit a button and just have those disappear because the the neural engine on his Mac can see that audio. We can actually do that stuff right now. And I feel like that sort of thing. It’s going to be more useful to people the whole studio effects thing that Apple has and Microsoft is introducing to like the ability to do things that used to be complex and maybe hit your GPU quite a bit and also eat a battery life.

Those should be more efficient with an MPU, the neural processing unit that are on, new Intel laptops, new AMD laptops the neural engine that’s on max. I guess that’s the idea, but these like generative AI tools, I just don’t know if those are the things, yeah.

Nathan: Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to put it because, I think the other thing that gets missed in this conversation so often is the fact that We have been, introduced to and using plenty of AI based tools, like what you mentioned for cleaning up audio automatically, or I think, maybe five years ago, I think Apple put the first neural engine in the iPhone, and none of us really knew what that meant at the time, but I think it’s enabled a lot of things like the improvements they’re seeing to photo processing, both, in Apple’s phones as well as Google’s phones, right?

There’s a reason why the pixels are so good at producing great images. And that’s because of the quality of the image, engine, I think. And like a lot of that stuff probably has to do with what’s happened in the backend. So like that stuff, absolutely useful, but like generative stuff.

I still don’t see it.

Devindra: Yeah, it’s I guess it’s tough to see it. Like the idea of Hey, I’m going to send you a 50 page PDF. Can you just get me a bullet point so I can feel like I’m up to speed with whatever this discussion is like that stuff could be useful, that stuff isn’t fully available yet.

Open AI is multimodal. Like you can drop some things in there and ask you questions about it. I don’t know how well it’s doing with those sorts of summaries. That’s part of the dream of copilot and copilot plus and everything that You could just send a PDF to Windows and have it deal with stuff.

I think one of the interesting features Microsoft showed off, Nate, is recall, which is the ability to just remember everything you’ve done on your computer because we’re ba we have bad memories, but also it’s rightly getting criticized for being potentially a huge invasion of privacy, potentially a huge security hold for a lot of people.

Do you have any thoughts on that, by the way, Nate, like just Of recalled you that was the thing announced last week and yeah, I remember huge fans of that.

Nathan: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Talk to me a little bit about what the main, you alluded to it. But again, it’s the kind of thing I could see being useful.

Also, yes I assume this is sending a lot of the data about what you do in your computer back to Microsoft. It’s not sending it.

Devindra: It’s not sending it. They say they’re not sending it. It’s local. But still, people are like even if it’s like a local database of stuff, even if you’ve encrypted it with whatever, with the Windows stuff that’s still a potential issue.

And also, it’s enabled by default, and people may not be fully aware of what is captured. I see the issues there. Yeah. Yeah. The

Nathan: default is not a great move. They definitely, it’s feature where if you like edit, you need to have a huge demo section. Like when you boot up after the update, like we have this new thing called this.

Here’s how it works. And here’s the privacy disclosures and. And here’s where you can turn it on if you want and how to turn it off if you don’t want, but I hear there is

Devindra: in the onboarding for when you get a new computer, I do hear that you will get an option to enable it there, but that’s like when you do this on a Windows computer now, you get do you want to enable personalized advertising?

Do you want to tailor, location stuff? And I think most people don’t even read those things and just click it to, I just want to use my computer. So that’s fair. The bigger problem, hey, we don’t know what’s going to happen with any of this stuff, but all these companies are basically betting billions on the idea that we are going to really want AI tools and this stuff is going to make or break their I don’t know their entire industries at this point.

So we’ll be keeping an eye on it and actually related to this, Apple announced their WWDC 2024 plans. This week the keynote is going to be June 10th at 1 PM Eastern. I’m hoping to be there with at least one other person from Engadget. We shall see who we’re still. Like finalizing our plans, but we’re gonna, we’re expecting to hear a lot more about AI.

There, there have been the reports about Apple essentially like working, trying to get deals with both Google and open AI about bringing their, generative search tools into Mac OS. Potentially even iOS too. So I think the latest rumor was that like, it seems like the open AI deal has happened or is happening.

We’re also expecting Apple to talk more about their own, like built in generative, maybe not generative, but their own built in AI tools. Certainly some sort of like model some of their own local models is going to do some work. And I guess that stuff is cool, Nate. That’s where I’m like, if CoPilot itself or Siri.

We’re actually smart and I can actually say, Hey, can, what? What are my appointments right now? Can you reschedule this appointment and just talk to it naturally and have things get done? I feel like that is a useful thing for a lot of people.

Nathan: Yeah, and I think that’s probably what’s been missing most from Siri, et cetera over the years.

People love to smash Siri and I think that if, you know rightfully you

Speaker: can. Yeah.

Nathan: I think if you know what it can do and what you want to get out of it, it can work. But I think what you’re saying is I’d love to say, Hey, what are my appointments today and have it understand that I have multiple calendar apps installed and to be able to look into those and say, yeah, okay, I can see all this stuff versus big you don’t use Apple calendar.

So you’re out of luck and I know that it’s not that limited at this point. But it’s also not that transparent to somebody again, that’s the problem is like to get these like wonderful use case scenarios that all these companies like to show off, you’ve got to be like practically a software engineer yourself to to make it happen.

Devindra: Yeah, exactly. Hey, I think the idea of just wanting to speak to your computer and have it like we Google talked a lot about this to having a computer cater to your needs rather than you learning the behaviors of computer. I think that is a really interesting inflection point and it is something we’re moving towards.

So we shall see,

Nathan: it’s an, it’s a noble goal that we are not yet there on do you think

Devindra: there’s any hardware at this year? I feel like probably no, but probably no, but it is weird. I have not seen any rumors of M4 MacBooks at this point, because it also feels like we just got a lot of new hardware from Apple, but it is very strange that the iPad pro is the only M4 device right now.

I wonder if they’re going to tease something. There have been rumors about other types of devices from Apple. But yeah, there’s no real like hardware rumors leading into this WWDC. I think they’re going to spend a lot of time talking about vision pro like vision OS and like the stuff they’re doing around that.

And they’ve proven that, Hey, they can really reshape the way you know, the vision pro works just by software because they didn’t have enough time to bake in all the features. I’m expecting to hear more about that. It’s going to be all AI, most likely like all AI and how AI is going to build itself into iOS macOS and everything.

That’s my guess. But we shall see. So you know what, folks, let us know. It makes me tired just thinking

Nathan: about

Devindra: it. Yeah. I’m so tired. I’m so tired at this point. Let us know folks what you want to see from DubDub this year. And yeah, how you think these AI tools are going to you. What will, what are the AI capabilities you’re really looking forward to?

Drop us an email at podcastandengadget. com. Also sell this news. This week, the Fitbit Ace LTE Google’s Fitbit division has basically produced this it’s a wearable, like gaming smartwatch for kids, but it also has LTE and also has like tracking features for parents too. So it looks like something that can help kids get around.

Get outdoors and go have fun. And it’s Tamagotchi like depending on their movement, but it also has like communication abilities. So kids can get in touch with their parents and parents can see where they are. I don’t know if you have thoughts about this, Nate, but this happened and Trillian wrote up a really nice hands on this thing.

So I want to acknowledge that Google is making hardware again, a little bit.

Nathan: Yeah. I like this just from, again, I have no idea if this is going to where I’m sure it won’t. It reminds me of how Apple introduced with the Apple Watch the sort of like family setup where you can have somebody who’s got the master control over these connected devices so that kids can’t like, go wild and whatever but the game stuff, I don’t know, it just, it seems like a cheeky bit of fun that, Isn’t trying too hard.

Like it seems like goofy and unique enough to be potentially fun. But again, like no idea what chance there is for this to reach an inflection point where enough people will be using these things of kids will be using these things that it goes anywhere. That said, one of our editors, Cheyenne McDonald, loves Tamagotchi.

She has a wrist worn one. She wears like a watch. And I would love to see her try this thing on and and see what kind of fun she can have with this thing, because she has already proven herself to be into quirky little games that you wear on your wrist, so I feel like she’s the perfect one to check that out.

Devindra: This specifically does seem like a thing for kids, though, is the thing. Tamagotchi, I feel they were kids toys, but You could almost make it a little kitschy, right? As a teenager or even as a young adult? Or like actual, yeah, definitely. There’s like a

Nathan: huge kitch factor. I dunno if that’s sneer for this now, for this thing, no.

’cause there’s no legacy, there’s no, history, there’s no oh, I have fond memories of this when I was, if there’re a teen or whatever. So yeah it’s, it is very much geared towards children. It says seven and up is what they’re targeting on.

But, I feel like you look at this thing in the visuals and the way it looks and I’m like, this is a 7 to 11 or 12 device at best.

Devindra: Yeah. Which is fine. Yeah. It’s like a time before your kids will have smartphones, most likely. Stuff like that. Exactly. Yeah. But you can get in touch

Nathan: with them if you need to.

You can, whatever. That’s what I get Apple pitch with the watch LTE is that you can have a kid wear it and they can contact you, but no one else or whatever. Yeah,

Devindra: I think that’s why this thing exists. Like Apple or Google doesn’t really have a good option for you. It’s just give your kid a thing and be like, okay, this will be part of our family plan.

And we know where you are. We can get in touch with you in case of emergency. Whereas I know a lot of people do that with the Apple watch, that is something yeah. My daughter is going to be going to like kindergarten and public school soon. Like in a couple of years, she’ll be doing stuff in like lower grade levels.

And I don’t want to like microchip my kid, but if my, if she could have a thing that could just keep her in touch with us, with my wife and I, like when we need to, I feel like I don’t think that’s too overboard parenting wise. And I think a lot of people would be into it and kids. Want to do it too. Like sometimes they need that reach out ability too.

So something I’m considering and that’s what the Apple watch ended up being good for. I don’t think Apple even considered that at the beginning of the night. So it’s just how it worked out. So I guess once again Google’s maybe a couple of years too late to offering something like this, but okay.

I could see how it could be useful. That’s the whole thing. Nate, you wanted to talk about this interview, which I think is really wild. There was an interview published by Sony with Naughty Dog head, Neil Druckmann, where he talked about AI allowing us to do things. And then Sony ended up pulling that interview and Druckmann also, I think on Twitter was like, Hey, I, this is not the full extent of what I said.

Here’s a direct quote from me. What the hell happened here?

Nathan: Yeah, this was wild. I pay a lot of attention to Naughty Dog, they make some of my favorite games. Oh, we know names, we know. As you, if you’ve listened to me talk before, you know this. And so yeah, Sony published this interview, it’s like a big like studio show off our creative talents and talk about the future of interactive entertainment and that sort of thing.

So Druckmann obviously with the success of the HBO series as well as the games. Logical choice for this, right? And yeah, there were two things that got the internet mad, one of which is the AI bit you mentioned, and the second one’s where he talked about how the new game Naughty Dog is working on would quote unquote redefine gaming as we know it.

Something to that extent. Very highfalutin, very made him sound like a bit of an egotistical maniac to some degree, if you want to look at it, through a sort of cynical eye. And then, yeah, a few days later, he goes on to, after there’s been some backlash and some upset, talk around this, he goes on Twitter and literally drops the receipts.

He’s here’s the transcript of what I said 450 words, and then here’s what it was condensed into 100 words. But to go even further, a gaming reporter his name has escaped me right now, but it’s in our story. He went out there and looked at the transcript and compared it to the answer and bolded all of the words in the answer that didn’t appear in what he actually said and it was almost the entire quote like it seems like Sony made up whole cloth some of these quotes, which is just bonkers.

And it’s not often you see some, somebody like directly contradict like a giant corporate overlord like Sony, obviously Druckmann has tons of power on his own, but still to just go on Twitter and be like, no, this isn’t what I said is a pretty like unusual move. And then it gets even better because Sony removed the interview, but instead of just like taking the page down and pretending it never happened, they actually put up an apology page saying we’ve removed this because it contained quote significant errors And yeah, and then, when he said like what the errors were there’s a great, there’s a great quote where it says We have found several significant errors and inaccuracies that don’t represent its respective values, including topics such as animation, writing, technology, AI, and future projects, which is basically the entire

Speaker 7: interview.

Oh, yeah.

Devindra: I almost wonder what the hell happened here because, hey, these interviews are conducted by basically like in house media people. Sometimes they’re former journalists. Sometimes it’s just like a PR person that’s like transcribing an interview. So It’s tough to tell like how this stuff went down. I almost wonder if some of this was AI transcribed and they like just didn’t do it or something like that.

That would be a

Nathan: conspiracy theory.

Devindra: That’d be the full thing to go around. But Hey, I will admit I use AI transcription tools sometimes too. Like it’s a really good thing when it works, but you have to go over it and make sure the words actually are actually spelled right. And refer to the things you think they refer to.

This is just wild. Also speaking about

Nathan: Neil, if you’re listening. I listen to the interviews I record and type them all out word for word. Happy to have a chat sometime about Naughty Dog’s future projects. I will not make up entire

Devindra: quotes. I promise. You promise. Listen, you’re like you are the Naughty Dog like fan right now, Nate.

So yeah.

Nathan: Yeah. We’ve got a Sony there’s a Sony state of play tonight. So supposedly 14 new games in 30 minutes. I have my fingers crossed for some news on this new project, but not holding my breath. Also,

Devindra: let’s briefly talk about this. There was the story too, that apparently both the Atlantic and Vox Media announced that they have made deals with OpenAI to essentially, what is it, allow their content to be absorbed, but also they’ll be paid for it.

That’s essentially. Yeah,

Nathan: They didn’t talk about terms, obviously, but basically OpenAI has been making these deals with several large publications or publications, large and small say. Where they’re, they will ingest their contents and, chat GPT will use it as a source for when you’re asking questions and that sort of thing.

In this case for both Fox media and the Atlantic they made a point to note that there will be citations. So chat GPT will say, based on, this report from so and and with links out to the original sources which I sounds to me like a way of getting ahead of the whole concern of AI is going to kill, Publishing because it won’t direct people to these pages anymore.

It’ll just summarize the articles for you and no one will click on the actual article.

Devindra: Maybe it won’t matter if you’re getting paid, right? If the media companies are getting paid for that. And I actually don’t see a huge problem with that because Google’s doing it already. Google is crawling the internet, right?

And like every media company, everybody on the internet has like a deal with the devil with Google. You have to be good for Google’s SEO. You have to be good to play nice with Google to rank well and stuff like that. And now it’s yeah, the Google, that’s a really good

Nathan: point. This is just a kind of a different flavor of that.

I suppose I feel like we are beholden

Devindra: to these companies that essentially control the internet or at least media on the internet. And people are looking at stuff like opening eyes, like summaries and everything as being like the next intranet in a way, or at least. It’s the next way we engage with what’s online.

Next it’s the new search, right? It’s the new search. Essentially. What is funny is that the Atlantic last week published the post called media companies are making a huge mistake with AI. And notably, this is not like by a staff writer. This is by Jessica lesson who like, this is some inside media stuff is she is the founder and owner of the information.

Which is a major technology news site. So this is almost like a guest piece, Yeah, it feels like an

Nathan: opinion. And of course, I appreciate the like separation of the newsroom and the business side of this case. It’s interesting you mentioned that too, because I got a newsletter from Vox.

com, the news site, not the media organization, but they’re flagship news sites and the newsletters, obviously, and they had a similar thing talking about all the risks of AI and how it’s going to affect media and that sort of thing. Obviously the newsrooms are thinking about this whilst the business side of things goes ahead, and I was going to say that it feels like, you said you either make the deal with the devil if you’re or if you’re a powerful enough, like a New York Times, who is suing open AI for all this, you can sue them.

But I think most companies aren’t in a position where they can do that. And now they’re like, okay we’ll get some revenue hopefully out of this. And of course, I actually don’t fault Atlantic or Vox media or any of the other companies has done this because recognizing it’s a difficult situation.

And it’s easy for me to jokingly poke fun at these companies when, there’s an equally a chance that our parent company will go ahead and do something similar in the next We have no personal

Devindra: say

Nathan: about what happens at Yahoo or No, this could easily happen.

Devindra: Yeah.

Nathan: And of course, I think again, worth noting that neither Vox nor The Atlantic talked about.

Generating articles or content with AI, right? It’s not that kind of thing. I think that’s the real,

Devindra: the real concern. Like the more of the clip, more closely you align yourself with these AI companies. Hey use some of our tools. Let’s do some, Hey, you want some auto summaries of your stories? You can use our tools to do that.

And a lot of sites have auto summary stuff happening like already. But who knows? Who knows? That’s eventually going to be a thing that. I, you could right now can get a simplified version of a webpage on iOS or I think even max now. So it’s like a little bit of an AI engine in a future iPhone.

Just be like, Hey, just can you summarize this whole thing for me? That’s like where we’re going. So even if it’s happening on device. Same kind of same problem, but maybe at least you get the ad revenue for that, Like maybe at least it sees the page at some point. We don’t know how any of this stuff works It’s all black magic folks.

I’ve been writing for the internet since 2009 And nobody has any clue about how it all works Unfortunately and

Nathan: to throw back to the the thing in chrome os the whole like help me write thing I’m like, okay, so we’re gonna start using help me write to create, articles and then You know, Google and Gemini or chat GPT will summarize those AI created articles with a new summary.

And I’m like, Oh God, this is. Very much a snake eating its tail situation. We are clear. No, I’m, we’re not using these things to create articles. We’re not using these things yet,

Devindra: but maybe who knows, maybe we will use a summary thing. I just feel like for media companies who are currently facing some serious issues, Hey, we had our own round of layoffs.

Pretty much every major media site has dealt with this. They have to do something they have to do something to make money or to stay afloat while they figure out what to do with this whole new terrain of publishing, which will involve AI in some form. So it sucks. This is a crummy place to be folks, but we’ll be reporting on it and let us know let us know.

Are you actually using the AI summary tools on some sites? The how are Google’s recommended, search results and stuff that are up top their AI search results. Are those preventing you from clicking sites? Like I’d love to know how people are actually using this stuff. Nate, you know what?

Maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about open AI because there’s a new safety team. Led by its board members, including CEO Sam Altman, so therefore everything’s fine.

Nathan: I’d love to have the CEO, whose only concern is the bottom line, also be involved with things like trust and safety.

Devindra: Yeah. They just two weeks ago, they dissolved the existing trust and safety team, which included people who may actually say no to some things.

And now this new one is just basically an opening eyes entire board and the CEO who was Again ousted last year for a weekend because the board could not trust the ceo. So I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening. This is

Nathan: a new this is a new board, right? That’s now loyal to the ceo. It is a new board

Devindra: because yeah ilya satskever.

John likey ilya satskever was one of the people on the board who also voted to push sam altman out He apologized now he’s off to do his own thing. But yeah, it is. You It’s not exactly heartening Nate that such a powerful company in the media and technology landscape now is like a mess internally in terms of how it’s being run.

That’s not great.

We’ve got a couple of questions or some emails from listeners I want to shout out an email from Darren. I don’t have your location here, but basically thoughts on Copilot Plus from a screen reader user. They write, I’m a screen reader user and notwithstanding the incredible leaps forward on built in accessibility features across most major platforms.

Windows is still the only desktop OS where there is a choice between multiple screen readers. A phenomenal productivity enabler when dealing with inaccessible websites or apps. So they’re saying JAWS or job access with speech, which is a popular commercial screen reader natively supports arm. So they are looking forward to using a copilot plus PC that potentially has better battery life.

and performance. Also they’re hoping that Microsoft will double down on supporting developers making native arm apps. We mentioned this x64 and x86 apps. It’s the older stuff, like the older Intel chips and AMD chips aren’t going away anytime soon, but arm seems like the focus. Darren writes overall, I’m not overly excited by AI itself, but if copilot plus brings about a more compelling windows on arm experience, that might be enough for me to go all in.

With my next laptop purchase. I think this is this is a good use case and certainly not a thing we talk about too much either. When I used to work in it, I’ve had to set up screen reader tools for people and it was always an interesting technology that barely worked. And I do think as we are, getting more powerful AI tools, potentially, like this is the sort of thing that could get better.

Do you have any thoughts on this, Nate?

Nathan: I think it’s like a pretty important accessibility tool, right? So I think if ARM can make a difference there, like that sounds great to me. This made me just wonder have you gotten to use the new ARM based machines outside of the hands on?

At Microsoft,

Devindra: I’ve not seen the new ones yet, and I want to point out here specifically, Darren says they are hoping Microsoft will double down on supporting developers making native ARM apps. That’s a big takeaway there. I don’t want to. They should, I’m right, they

Nathan: have to if they’re going to, if these computers are going to be successful.

They have to. Obviously the emulation is better this time than it was a few years ago. But that’s not a long term solution.

Devindra: Yeah. So they say, but also this is Microsoft, like there, you can run some windows 3. 1 or like some really early windows apps still within windows, because that’s, they have to support like a really wide range of like software and old stuff.

Do think like the prism emulator will probably be around for a long time. I don’t know, like when will the arm version of windows be like the main version of windows? I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen just because this is like a specific question that there are, I think the last numbers I saw, there are like 1.

4 billion windows, like 10 and 11 devices out there. So that’s a lot. That’s good. It’s gonna be a

Nathan: lot of right. And you can’t cut support for those anytime soon. They’re all running relatively modern versions of the OS. I think it’s crazy that we still talk about like the idea of running a Windows 3.

1 or like even a little later application. I’m like, who the hell needs to do that? And I know there’s some legacy industries where that’s the case. But I think they’re so specific that consumer wise, Microsoft would say, okay, we’re just going to make this transition. And then if you’re a weird legacy customer, then contact us and we’ll have solutions for you.

But maybe that’s not the most efficient way to do it.

Devindra: Absolutely. So anyway, we’re, this is a certainly interesting sea change in the way, like Windows devices can work and what they’ll support, and this could mean good news. Things for people who really depend on these devices too, for a lot of things.

So anyway, we have another email from Rohan who is I think following up a question or an email he wrote last year about using an iPad as a contributor as a computer. This is a very long email, but I’m going to read a couple of graphs here. When the original iPad was announced, he writes, it was clearly called out that the device needs to do a few things better than your iPhone and your Mac, or else it doesn’t have to exist.

And that was like, Poking at netbooks back then. I remember that. However, when they launched the iPad nearly a decade and a half ago, it is precisely a burden of legacy that Apple is moving away from. To sum it up, every, anything and everything we dislike during the PC era cannot be repeated. And to be fair, the iPad did not repeat many of the mistakes.

Rohan is saying essentially this is the legacy of what’s happening now is like Apple is still so beholden to the idea of not repeating the PC. It may not have like fully. Fully engaged, like how people may actually want to use the iPad. So Rohan points out just the idea of supporting like a real browser, a full on desktop browser, not just like a desk, like a quote unquote desktop class browser.

Nathan: I would love to dig into that bit particularly because. Obviously I use the iPad a lot. I, and I, this is a genuine question. I want to know what separates the iPad browser from a quote unquote real browser. Here’s a,

Devindra: here’s an example. His wife is working on a project in the company she’s working with uses Google suite.

They sent her a survey for review. For some reason, she couldn’t open it on her iPad on any browser, but it opened just fine on her iPhone running Chrome.

Nathan: So that doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t make sense.

Devindra: Cause.

Nathan: I’m not saying he’s wrong, but I don’t know why that would be we don’t know There’s I actually use and it’s interesting.

I use the Google Apps on the iPad, but also I’ve used the web apps in Safari and they work fine

Devindra: It’s like when it gets some more complicated like hey Dealing with multiple attachments and things like that because file system is our CMS

Nathan: also. Yeah RCM It mostly works on an iPad But there’s like a weird scroll error where I’m looking at our list of stories.

I can’t get to the bottom where we can go to the next page.

Devindra: The iPad is made to basically like you have to engage in things through an app. That was like the idea of the iPad. And I don’t feel like they’ve ever really fully moved on from that. So Ron says, because of this issue, they had to purchase a refurbished Mac book that runs a proper version of Chrome.

Yeah, that is just a weird things. Let me wonder how

Nathan: this will change now that apple has to open up the web the web browser engines and Support things besides webkit like chromium the current chrome browser on ios and ipad is still running is running webkit. It’s like a thing on top of webkit

Devindra: Yeah,

Nathan: right.

So but I think that soon if not I think it’s not available yet, but I think at some point you’ll be able to run the full, Chrome using their engine. And that’ll be interesting.

Devindra: I think that’ll be like, like a real computer rather than a closed off like specialized Apple ecosystem. I feel like that’s only going to be a good thing for consumers as much as Apple hates it.

And I’m sure it’s going to lead to like more like malware and junk and potential vulnerabilities on your iPad, but. That may be a thing we have to live with for a more open type of computing. Rohan points out a couple of other things here. Just issues they’ve noticed the health app on his iPad won’t sync.

I guess like with his iPhone stuff, he’s on M1 air. Hey, I’ve noticed that too. The health app just doesn’t even track things properly for me. That’s a, it’s a weird thing. Apple news puzzles won’t sync progress between iPad and iPhone. Don’t get him started on iMessage sync files is broken, does not find a file.

If he enters a full name correctly, even if taking care of the case and everything, there are a lot of these weird software issues and they, I don’t know if you’ve just learned to deal with them, but like we talked about during the iPad pro episode if you wanted to record that episode with us on our streaming platform right now, I don’t think you could do it.

I don’t think there’s only one

Nathan: audio stream support at a time. I, so I don’t know, again, not discounting his experience, but this just sounds like using technology issues. Like I don’t have any problems that I message saying it could be the platform

Devindra: that it came through, but I see this all the time.

Here’s the thing, like having worked in it, like this is it. This is the most annoying part of it. Everyone’s got these random

Nathan: use cases. Everybody’s got something that isn’t working.

Devindra: And it doesn’t make sense that something would work on the iPhone and not

Nathan: the iPad. No, I recently was trying to figure out something to this.

And I was like, where’s all the storage going and looking at like my messages and, sync is fine. Like I get everything on all my devices. But like in terms of the storage it’s using, I can’t figure out why I’m like one machine is taking up 20 gigs and one machine is taking up 10. And, how do I How do I reduce this?

And yeah, the whole thing is just crazy.

Devindra: It’s such a mess. Anyway, that’s a cool, thank you for the emails, everybody. It’s always good to talk about this stuff. Drop us more notes at podcasting gadget. com. We love your feedback. Let’s move on to what we’re working on. Anything you want to shout out, Nate?

Nathan: Yeah, I will probably be doing a lot of Chromebook stuff in the next few weeks as well as yeah, getting ready for WWDC and summer game fest. I don’t. I think I’m attending of those in person, but certainly we’ll be helping out on the home front with

Devindra: all the news. Cool, cool. Yeah, I’ll also be, like, preparing for WWDC at this point.

Maybe another short trip, but looking forward to seeing things there. I’m also currently writing up a hands on the Vision Pro what if. Experience that whole thing. I was trying to get it done yesterday and just did not have time. It’s interesting, but it’s it’s a mess.

It looks really cool because everything on the vision pro looks amazing. Thanks to those screens and like the power there, but playing it is not great. Because it, this thing was not made for, Games really. So like I’m saying,

Nathan: so it’s both an, it’s both like a air quotes movie and a game kind of it’s like an interactive,

Devindra: it’s like any VR experience you’ve had, which are some, sometimes you’re watching something.

And sometimes it’s Hey, you have to hold your fists up and point lasers. You’re essentially like one of those people working who like the doctor strange people, like the, people with magic powers, you’re one of those folks. You’re collecting infinity stones. You have to use the shield and.

You go pew lasers and none of it feels very good because it’s all controlled by hand tracking and it’s like a mess, but it does look cool. And it’s a cool, free experiment, I think from Marvel and the ILM interactive folks. So yeah. Could be a hint of what’s to come. I think that’s the best I could say about it.

Nathan: Yeah, for free too. I can’t get too mad about it, right? Yeah, free if you have a vision

Devindra: pro,

Nathan: that’s a fair caveat.

Devindra: Totally fair. Any pop culture picks for us this week, Nate?

Nathan: Yeah, so I there’s this band out of the UK called Dotter. Last year they released their first album in six years.

And while unfortunately they didn’t tour for it they just released this amazing thing. YouTube video of them performing the songs live with some of their friends And it’s at this gorgeous studio in the middle of the uk somewhere like in this big farm what would love to go there and play some music myself someday and it’s really cool because it’s all shot, with one camera basically there’s one guy who films each song moving throughout the room And and then each song is a new take or whatever, but like each song is its own take and it all culminates with the last tune where the singer she’s singing in this room by herself the beginning of the song is very quiet It’s just her and her guitar And then at the midway point this whole like Orchestral band comes in and she puts the guitar down and walks through the studio Into another room where the whole rest of the band is there playing and she joins them and it’s just gorgeous song You Gorgeous filming really unique stuff.

If you like slightly sad, but really pretty indie music arcade fiery type

Devindra: stuff sounds like arcade fire type stuff maybe.

Nathan: Not as much bombast more you know quieter, like the national a little bit but That sort of thing. They’re great. They’re on the nationals label.

So there you go. I’m thinking that thank you for the whiny

Devindra: indie rock nate Yes. No, it’s no she’s she doesn’t whine she emotes She emos. Close very close. I want to shout out a movie called hitman which is going to be on netflix soon This is not the adaptation the two adaptations of the hitman video games.

This is The Richard Linklater film, which is a ton of fun. Really? It’s funny. It’s romantic. It’s just like genuinely endearing. It stars Glenn Powell, who’s like the new it guy in Hollywood. He was in Top Gun 2. He’s in a rom com this year that everybody loved. He’s going to be in a, that Twisters sequel coming up.

And it’s a fun premise. Twisters. I don’t know if I’m going to be excited about Twisters, but he looks fun. Like I like him and pretty much everything. And the premise for this movie is really fun too. Cause he plays a professor who’s like a boring dude, like a boring nerd. But he moonlights as somebody who helps police.

He’s also like a tech guy. So he helps police like capture criminals. Like he helps with the wiring and stuff. And it gets to a point where essentially he. It’s helping police by pretending to be a hired hitman and it’s like a way to entrap people who would call up a hitman to murder family members or whatnot.

That’s the premise and things get a little wild from there. I think this movie is a lot of fun. It’s in not many theaters right now, but if you can see it there, that would be great. It’s also going to hit Netflix on June 7th. Just a week

Nathan: then. And I was gonna say, yeah, it’s been out for a little bit, right?

It’s been out in theaters for a week,

Devindra: I think, at this point. But yeah, Glenn Powell’s fantastic. Adria Orjana, who is who is in. What’s the star Wars and or she’s been a bunch of things. She’s also fantastic in this great cast, really funny script, just a good time. Just like a good feel good movie that I think hits all the right notes.

So check it out, folks. That’s hit man on Netflix. Now this all reminds me too, that I I finally started watching the pair. Obviously I’m late to the party, but damn, it’s good. It’s very good. Wait till you get to season two, Nate. That’s it for this week, folks. Our theme music is by game composer, Dale North.

And our outro music is by our former managing editor, Terrence O’Brien. The podcast is produced by Ben Elman. You can find me online and at DaVentura on Blue Sky, Twitter, all over Mastodon. Where can we find you, Nate? I’m mostly on threads

Nathan: these days at Nate Ingram. I don’t post frequently, but I lurk around and read.

And when I have. Stupid thoughts. That’s where they end up.

Devindra: Not Twitter though. Yeah. Sorry. Not Twitter. Not Twitter. You can email us at podcastinggadget. com. Also say hi to Sherlynn. Tell her if you miss her or whatever, leave us a review on iTunes and subscribe on anything that gets podcast folks.

Thanks. We’re out.

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