Look behind the curtain at the tech powering Mixer's HypeZone

When a small Microsoft Garage team began working on "Lookout, an AI-powered tool for monitoring live video streams, they had no idea it would eventually end up as an important part of Microsoft's Mixer streaming service. But, after winning the 2017 Microsoft Hackathon, the tool, now known as "Watch For," became the backbone of Mixer's HypeZone.

In a new post on the Microsoft Garage blog, the company takes a look behind the curtain of HypeZone, offering details on Watch For's humble journey from Garage project to game-streaming success.

At its inception, Watch For was designed by a Microsoft researchers Matthai Philipose, Lenin Sivalingam, Yifan Wu, Peter Bodik, and Victor Bahl. With a background in working on video analytics for the enterprise sector, the team began work on Watch For as a way to translate their experience to apply AI to a consumer setting. Over time, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took notice of the team, and their project eventually won Microsoft's annual Hackathon in 2017.

From there, the Mixer team was intrigued by Watch For and reached out for a potential collaboration. The goal was to use Watch For's AI smarts to hone in on the most exciting moments from new battle-royale style games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite, which were surging in popularity. This gave birth to HypeZone.

Lenin says:

Matt already had the idea of HypeZone itself, to switch from stream to stream within a channel – but the experience of HypeZone evolved very quickly during our collaboration. We met with Matt and Chad early September. Two weeks later we had a prototype that we showed them. Then we kept improving its accuracy. By mid-October we had another prototype that they could use to run their HypeZone experience. We tested it for another 3 weeks. Then, 2 days before release, PUBG changed their UI. 1 day before release, we had to completely change all our models.HypeZone is driven by Watch For's large-scale video analysis of every stream that's coming into Mixer. Every stream we try to understand what's on the screen. We look for various metadata that tell us the game is exciting. Text on the screen, icons that tell you state of the game, player stats and score. Over time we have evolved to understand more and more.

Today, Mixer's HypeZone has expanded to offer 24/7 channels that deliver down-to-the-wire action from PUBG, Fortnite, and Rainbow Six Siege.

For more on the story of Watch For's journey, check out the full blog post at Microsoft.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl