The future of search on your PVR

Blinkx's CEO and Founder Suranga Chandratillake
Blinkx's CEO and Founder Suranga Chandratillake

Blinkx is a video search engine with a difference. Where its rivals search results span mainly from keywords, Blinkx helps you look for video on the web through some futuristic means.

Using face and speech recognition as well as normal text analysis, the search service allows its user to dig deeper into video content than ever before and offers search for around 35 million hours' video.

While Blinkx has been around since 2005, its recent announcement of a link-up with Miniweb – who currently offers interactive services through BSkyB – means the service will soon be available on a set-top box near you.

With this in mind, TechRadar sat down with the founder of Blinkx, Suranga Chandratillake, to speak about the state of the online video industry in both the US and UK and how search is the secret to make VoD a success…

TechRadar: How does Blinkx differ from, say, Google Video?

Suranga Chandratillake: Google Video is actually one of the most limited video search engines around. This is primarily a strategic thing, because Google owns YouTube. Google has a huge deal of self-confidence where it ideally wants you to use its search service and then go to watch the video in YouTube. That way it gets you as an audience member.

If you compare us more usefully to AOL and Yahoo, the main difference is the way we process the video.

Everybody else depends on metadata – whether it is the title or tags, the description, that kind of thing. We are pretty unique in the fact that we process the video content ourselves. So, our software uses speech recognition, visual analysis, facial analysis and we can automatically extract and use all that information to give a better understanding of what is going on.

TR: What difference does this make?

SC: It makes a big difference if you think about it. Even on a professionally news site like the BBC, a four or five minute news clip may only have a two sentence text description. And while this will be a great description as the BBC has good editors,, it doesn't cover the full plethora of concepts from that video.

But if you can listen to the video and 'hear' every single word, you will pick up a lot more. So we get a lot of accuracy doing it our way.

TR: Will your video search service make a clean transition to set-top boxes?

SC: The eventual of platform of use doesn't matter. It's all about breaking the linear experience of search. At the moment, we allow you on the website to click on a number of different ways to search video – from facial recognition to actual keywords. There's no reason why this wouldn't work just as well on a set-top box.

It'll be great for things like news, where you would be able jump to certain topics rather than just scrawling through the news. It is something that you will be able to do with Blinkx's technology.

TR: Can you give us an example of this?

SC: We have some great demos of this technology working with movies. So, you can type in "the name's Bond, James Bond" and it will jump to the exact moment that is said in the whole library of James Bond movies. But while this is a really cool thing to do once or twice, after a while it's actually a pretty limited use.

But when it comes to formative content, it's extremely useful. If you type in Marrakesh, then the search will pick up every time on travel programmes that the city is mentioned, eventually building up a whole stack of content centred around one subject, which is really useful.

You will be able to define what you are interested in and essentially create your own compilation clip show catering to your interests and needs.

TR: With the announcement of a link-up with Miniweb it was mentioned, you will be able to integrate target advertising into the search service. Is this wise considering the backlash Phorm has been getting?

SC: The way that Blinkx does its advert targeting on the website is not through profiling but through contextual targeting. So when you are watching a video about a holiday to Morocco, it knows what the video is about and can suggest a banner ad about a hotel that is available in Morocco right now.

I actually think that is a better way to do it. People don't seem to mind that. If anything, they seemed to appreciate some sort of target advertising based on what they are reading or watching.

It's very different to the sort of advertising where you are watching people's habits over time – that's an altogether more spooky experience.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.