Israeli-developed Magisto features in new Amazon TV box

Online retailer believes the app’s slick, automatic video editing will give it a leg up on the competition

Amazon Fire TV system (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Amazon Fire TV system (Photo credit: Courtesy)

A day after Amazon announced its new set-top box, it revealed that the Fire TV has an important Israeli-born component. Fire TV’s official video editing app is made by Magisto, an Israeli start-up that lets users “produce” polished, professional-looking video presentations using clips uploaded from their computers or smartphones. With the Magisto app, Fire TV users will be able to build a library of their own video clips and watch them on their TV sets.

Magisto was founded in 2009 as SightEra by two Israeli vision technology experts: Alex Rav-Acha, formerly of HumanEyes, which developed technology for 3D photography, and Dr. Oren Boiman of the Weizmann Institute. In 2011, the company developed the Magisto app and changed its name to match that of its product.

Magisto is a video editing platform, but what sets it apart is that it does all the editing. All a user has to do is upload the clips, even they aren’t connected to one another. Using artificial intelligence algorithms developed by the company, the app analyzes the clips, looking for similarities in faces, scenarios, emotions, topics, locations, continuity, and more, and assembles them into a single “story,” correcting for color, focus, and other video basics. The app even suggests music appropriate to the video, and synchronizes it to the audio in the clips (lowering the music when people are talking, and increasing the volume at a particularly emotional moment).

Magisto was first introduced just two years ago, at CES 2012 in Las Vegas, and since then has gone on to become one of the most popular video editing platforms on the Internet, with 30 million users. It is free to use, is available online, and there is a version for iOS and Android as well. As for the new kid on the block in the set-top box business, Magisto gives Amazon an important tool to compete with established industry giants such as as Apple, Google (with its nifty Chromecast dongle) and Roku.

Like its competition, the Amazon Fire TV offers streaming TV and video services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Crackle. Amazon also has its own streaming service — Amazon Instant Video — which customers of its Prime shipping service have been able to stream through their computers and other set-top boxes for several years. Many of the Amazon selections are free, and the company expects many of its Prime members to buy the $99 box.

Magisto’s app — and now Fire TV — also has a social component: Users are able to allow access to other Fire TV viewers to watch their videos, just like they can on YouTube. Unlike on YouTube, however, those videos will all be slick Magisto productions, since the Israeli-developed app is the only video editing app for the device so far.

For Amazon, working with Magisto is “thrilling,” said Mike George, vice president of Amazon Appstore and Games. “Customers now have access to their favorite video and photo memories right in their living rooms, displayed in a visually stunning way. Magisto has developed a fast and engaging app, and we know that our customers will love experiencing it on the Amazon Fire TV.”

Boiman, one of founders of Magisto, said the partnership with Amazon would enable the company to show its technology off even more effectively on the “big screen” — big compared to the computer monitors and smartphones most people use to watch their Magisto creations.

“The form factor of devices is no longer a limiting factor in how people consume media,” he said. “Professionally produced movie and television programing made their way to the digital world several years ago, but personal video has been conspicuously absent from the evolving TV experience, because, until now, it was difficult to make video content that was worth sharing. Magisto has changed that and now with Amazon Fire TV, our users can share their stories with the richness and grandeur that a large screen TV provides.”

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