NEC Develops Prototype Video Search Engine

Researchers at NEC Corp.'s C&C Media Laboratories say they have developed the first prototype of a search engine capable of locating digital images, photographs and video scenes regardless of data format.

The engine can be used to search any type of source video or image because it converts all material to a common format before indexing. Once material has been converted into the common format, a data file of 63 bits in size is created from the image or scene. This data file is approximately 1/30th of the size of the original and contains information on features in the image represented by the wavelengths of the colors that make them up. These files then become the database through which searches are performed.

Researchers are now working on search interfaces for the system, and they outlined several likely ways in which searches could be performed. They envision users launching searches by selecting objects from a gallery, or supplying an example of what they want, rather than by using words.The engine could then look through the indexed data for matches. Another alternative would be for the user to sketch what is required and launch the search from the sketch.

Researchers are also looking at ways in which text queries could be used to search the database, although they acknowledge it may be difficult to accomplish because users will have to succinctly describe what they are looking for in a way the engine will understand.

Because the search database is 1/30th the size of the video and image files, the system can run on less powerful hardware and also is faster, the company said. NEC said the engine is 30 times faster than any previous technology and 10 times more accurate.

In addition to ongoing development at the NEC laboratories, the search engine will be part of an experimental model for the next-generation MPEG-7 format currently being worked on by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG).

NEC Corp., in Tokyo, can be found online at http://www.nec.co.jp.

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