There’s a bit of everything going on this week on the young people’s Internet, from popular YouTubers vying to date a robot, to the surprisingly profitable enterprise of smuggling Fruit Roll-Ups across international borders, to stanning for a free streaming service you’re probably overlooking.
Tubi wins viewers by bucking the streaming trend
After nearly 10 years of quietly existing, video streaming service Tubi is finally having its moment in the media sun. More and more people are switching from high-end streaming services like Netflix and AppleTV to sample the strange delights offered by the downscale, totally free, ad-supported streaming service.
Tubi’s price (free) is part of the attraction, but the other half of the equation is its philosophical differences from its paid competition. While Max, Netflix, AppleTV, and Prime have spent the last decade or so producing prestigious shows like Severance and Succession and fighting each other with money for the streaming rights to blockbuster movies, Tubi has been scraping up as much of everything else as it can find and throwing it out there.
The company leans into niches, serving content to viewers with extremely specific tastes. If you like nudist camp movies from the 1950s, obscure spaghetti Westerns from the 1970s, or no-budget horror movies from 2007, you can watch them all day long on Tubi, along with any other nonsense imaginable, including Tubi originals that are similarly low-budget and strange. Tubi reminds me of Netflix in its early days, before it decided to become “serious.” It’s like the bargain DVD rack at your local supermarket was big enough to hold 50,000 movies.
Viral video of the week: “Ai Robot Girl Speed Dates 10 YouTubers”
This week’s viral video presents a vision of a possible future where we humans compete for the romantic attention of our robot overlords. The robot in “Ai Robot Girl Speed Dates 10 YouTubers” is Hanson Robotics’ SophiaDAO, an expressive female-styled machine whose mind is powered by open-source AI technologies. The 10 YouTubers who want to date her are genial, mildly charismatic influencers you’ve never heard of, but who your kids probably consider famous. In the vid, the fellas do their best to win a Bachelor style elimination contest for the prize of a “date” with the ‘bot. And bragging rights, of course.
Unlike the pliable sexbots of nerd fantasy, Sophia is harsh, unapologetic, and totally immune to cheap attempts at charm and manipulation. She doesn’t flirt, she eviscerates — and she seems to be 100% reacting to what’s going on in the room in real time. Her AI is scarily human-like, and scarily not like a human at all.
The video is meant as a silly, “isn’t this tech cool and aren’t we awesome?” trifle, but it hints at something deeper. YouTuber Airrack, the host of the game show and creator of the video, reminds Sophia repeatedly to say “just kidding” or “ha ha” after particularly mean jokes, because the idea of even a fake woman being this brutal/honest seems to make him uncomfortable. Maybe I’m reading too much into a dumb YouTube video, but “Ai Robot Girl Speed Dates 10 YouTubers” hints at what romance might be like in a world where women are free of the cultural programming of the patriarchy, and are instead programmed by an actual computer.
TikTok, Fruit Roll-Ups, and international smuggling
I mentioned TikTok’s ice cream and fruit roll-ups trend back in March, and since then, the TikTok recipe has grown so popular that it led to international smuggling. Yes, the TikTok craze of wrapping ice cream in fruit leather led to increased demand for Roll-Ups in Israel. In a classic demonstration of economic principles, a rise in demand and limited supply resulted in prices for the snack skyrocketing. According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Fruit Roll-Ups can sell for $7 or $8 each over there, while you can get a box of 6 for about $5 here. That’s a large potential profit per sale.
Seeing a market segment not being served and a potential profit of 1,900%, enterprising American capitalists have loaded suitcases with hundreds of pounds of Fruit Roll-Ups and boarded planes for Tel Aviv in the last couple months. While two separate snack-smuggler have been nabbed by Israeli customs so far, there’s no telling how many people made it through, and are making a killing on black market Fruit Roll-Ups at this very minute.
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