MIT Lecture Browser – text search for video content

I just came across the MIT Lecture Browser and am a bit smitten.

Essentially, it’s a combination speech to text converter and search engine for video lectures at MIT. Enter in a word and the search engine will not only find the videos that the word is used in, but it will also take you to the exact spot within the video where that word was used and give you a running transcript.

With more than 100 million videos online and another 100,000 being uploaded each day, there is an awful lot of great content that is, for the most part, hidden away from search engines that do nothing but search on tags, keywords and descriptions.

I imagine this kind of search will be much more common in the next couple of years – in fact, there are already some options emerging in this area.

The speech to text recognition isn’t perfect. I used the example search term of “wine”. one of the videos returned was from Nicholas Negroponte, talking about the hundred dollar laptop at the 2005 MIT Emerging Technologies Conference. I was intrigued. Where in that address did Negroponte talk about wine? Well, here’s the text quote:

show you a few slides so wine doubt laptop it does you could that that creek slips out and see sells word eat else can slip and

And here is Negroponte’s actual quote:

show you a few slides. It’s a wind up laptop. (bit of a stumble) that crank slips out and c cells or d cells could slip in

So the speech to text is a work in progress.

But besides the technology, the ability to access and search the MIT lecture library for content is also very cool. However, it looks like there isn’t a heck of a lot of content there yet. Do a search for “television” in the category “Media” and you only get a single video returned. I suspect the word “television” might be used in a few more classes than that in a Media Studies program.

Maybe part of the reason I am smitten is that it reminded me of a project I was working on about 5 years ago. We have a large collection of digitized audio and I was trying to build a web based application using an XML based language called SMIL that would do something similar with audio clips. That project eventually died, and I was a bit sad that the use of SMIL was never really mainstreamed, despite being a W3C technology. It looks like the MIT site uses some SMIL program and that brought back some warm fuzzies of my bygone project.

Really, how can you not love a programming language called SMIL?


So long Netscape

In life we tend to have many different types of relationships. There are the relationships that stay strong over time, usually due to close proximity and daily contact. There are the types of relationships that come and go over the years, flaring then dimming, but always able to quickly be stoked back into life again. And then there are those relationships that are brief, intense, and then disappear from your life forever (well, until you are reunited 20 years later on Facebook).

I would classify my relationship with Netscape as the third. For a few brief years, it was the web for me. It did it all – web browser, email client, even a web page editor (ah Netscape Gold, I remember you well). It moved me from the world of Silly Little Message Reader to the wonderful world of the web.

It was my first love.

But then the sexier, more sophisticated choices arrived, and I was wooed by first Internet Explorer and then Firefox. Oh, I tried many times to head back to the arms of my first love, but it really never lived up to the memory.

So, needless to say I was a bit saddened, in that self reflective living in the past with my rose coloured glasses sense, to hear that AOL has pulled the plug on Netscape.

Seems like only yesterday that AOL paid 4 billion dollars for the browser. Now I’m no business expert, but you have to think that is a pretty lousy ROI. From 4 billion to dead in 10 short years.