Netflix Launches “Max,” A Goofy Virtual Assistant To Help With Recommendations, Available Now On PS3, iPad Next

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Netflix this morning announced its own take on virtual assistants like the iPhone’s Siri, with the debut of “Max,” an on-screen guide for the Netflix app on PlayStation 3 devices, which helps you find new movies or TV shows to watch. And yes, the guide does talk to you, but thankfully has yet to manifest itself in some more corporeal format, like Microsoft’s “Bob.”

Instead, Max — which Netflix says is “rumored to be the child of Siri and HAL 9000″ — will ask you a few questions about your mood or movie and TV show tastes in order to make a recommendation, while also taking into account your interests as already understood by Netflix’s algorithms.

Max also offers a game show-like experience called “The Ratings Game,” where you can pick a genre that fits your mood, and then Netflix — err, Max — runs through a few titles you might like and has you rate them on a 5-star scale.

2-RatingsGame

After gaining a better understanding of your interests, Max may offer personalized suggestions after asking only one question. In an example provided by Netflix on its blog, Max asks if you prefer “monkeys” or “UFOs” to make its — err, his — recommendations. And at other times, Max will simply make a suggestion, no Q&A involved.

All the while, Max speaks to interact with you using a goofy, “I’m a game-show host!,” type of voice. (You can almost imagine him saying, “no, I’m sorry, the correct answer was ‘UFO’s’, it’s back to zero for you.”)

Netflix has been experimenting with Max for some time, having first been spotted last summer in the form of an app update for some PS3 owners. At the time, there was no word as to whether Netflix would be rolling out Max to the full PS3 network, or to other gaming consoles or Netflix platforms.

Today, however, Netflix seems to be making a broader commitment to this silly assistant, promising “we’ll expand his repertoire and make him available on other devices in the future, likely the iPad next.” The company tells TechCrunch that the iPad is expected for six months to a year from now, if Max proves successful.

In addition, the decision to launch first on the PS3 is due to the fact that it’s the most popular way for people to watch Netflix on their TVs, explains Netflix. “We have tested Max already; now he’s going public to all members who use PS3,” a company spokesperson says. “Max has shown already that members who use him will watch more and stay with Netflix longer.”

Unfortunately (???), Max will only be available to U.S. users for now, and the rollout should complete by end of day.

Updated 10:30 AM ET with additional rollout details and comments from Netflix; Correction to headline (iPad next, not next week).