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Search TV Content in a blinkx
Posted On January 1, 2005
Search engine developments over the last year or so have focused on enhancing online shopping searches as well as improving searches of news content, travel information, local resources, blogs, and books. Recently, a small start-up company called blinkx (which has offered a Web search tool) has introduced what it says is the first search engine for television content. blinkx TV ( captures and indexes the video stream directly from TV and from the Web and then lets users search and access news, movie trailers, popular multimedia segments, and other video formats on demand. It uses speech recognition technology to create the searchable transcripts. 

blinkx TV allows users to search for television video and audio clips by using standard keyword and Boolean queries, but also by using a conceptual search technology that infers the intent of the search. blinkx says its search engine uses patented context-clustering technology (CCT) to overcome the shortcomings of keyword search technologies and to understand the ideas and context behind the words. 

Search results include a source, date and time, excerpt, and URL. Clicking on the source provides a pop-up window with the video playing. blinkx TV also includes "smart folders" that automatically update their content as new information becomes available. 

Video sources indexed by blinkx include Fox News, CNN, BBC News, Bloomberg Television, the major networks, Biography, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and more. The name "blinkx TV" actually seems a bit limiting, since the blinkx engine also searches radio content from sources like NPR, the BBC, and Voice of America. 

blinkx founder Suranga Chandratillake, who was formerly with Autonomy, said: "blinkx TV fills the gap between the explosion of rich media content and the growing consumer interest in harnessing it. At blinkx we've recognized consumers' needs and taken the search engine to a new level. Groundbreaking automatic transcription technology, which transcribes content straight from the cable box on-the-fly, or from video already stored on the Web, together with advanced phonetic matching speech recognition technology, automates the process of searching TV clips for the first time. After launching the world's first Smart Folders and Implicit Query just weeks ago, we're pleased to be bringing even more innovative functionality to our growing userbase."

Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted that there could be some intellectual property issues in what blinkx TV is doing. In a Dec. 16 article, WSJ reported that blinkx had an agreement to digitize and search all Fox News Channel broadcasts, but did not have authorization from CNN, which limits online access to its video clips to subscribers. Executives at blinkx reportedly acknowledged to the paper that they would need agreements with video content owners to expand the service, but they claimed that fair use permits blinkx to show clips of up to 30 seconds.

Along with desktop search tools, video search seems to be the current darling of the search world—thanks to recent advances in transcription technology and the growing adoption of broadband. Yahoo! recently introduced a video search engine in beta, which crawls the Web for video files ( CNET reported that Google is recording and indexing TV programming to make shows searchable online and that Microsoft is also developing a search engine for video. Of course, most of the focus of these initiatives is for consumer and entertainment purposes, but the tools could also be useful for business and professional applications. 

Analysts from Outsell commented: "We expect this to go the way of other innovations in search: it will be a little clunky at first and you won't know what to expect in your search results, but the next thing you know you won't be able to live without it. All these new developments are testimony to the search players' willingness to experiment and test the waters with an eager and forgiving user base."

A representative of blinkx boasted that it "continues to out-innovate, and preempt Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!," because blinkx TV handles both Web-based content and direct feeds, while "Google is still only talking about searching video that is already on the Internet." In addition, the contextual search capability of blinkx can "infer from the content on a user's screen whether to retrieve information on Apollo the space program, Apollo the Greek god, or the Apollo theater in London."

blinkx was founded in 2003 and launched its Web search tool in July 2004. The free downloadable tool ( searches Web resources, including audio and video sources, blogs, and e-mail and files on a user's local hard drive. 

Finally, as I was writing this, I stumbled onto a BusinessWeek Online article about a further impetus for the growing video phenomenon—video blogs, or what some call vlogs. Just when you think you're caught up with the latest on blogs, RSS, and other stuff in the Web world, another technology emerges, ripe for development. 

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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