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A major defense department contractor, BBN of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has applied a national security technology application, developed to fight terrorism, to "crawl" the audio tracks of public Internet videos through its PodZinger subsidiary. 

PodZinger has analyzed, transcribed and organized some 1.5 million YouTube clips since December and is crawling many thousand every day, according to Alex Laats, who heads the unit.

PodZinger’s speech-to-text technology has evolved from its post 9/11 work on behalf of the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies.  Since the terrorist attacks, the company has received some $50 million in government funding. Beet.TV has learned that the technology has been used  by government agencies to analyze electronic media in part by determining if audio is in English, Arabic or Chinese. 

Similarly, PodZinger analyzes the language of clips and determines whether they are music or have speech.  If there is speech, a transcription is created which is nearly 80 percent accurate, company executives say.

BBN has retained the rights to apply this technology to search public Internet video.  It has  been seeking to monetize this business through a "white box" solution.  Selling a customized search engine for Web sites. 

It is also seeking to monetize this technology through contextual advertising. Last month, the company launched a public portal organized around various topics including sports, politics, lifestyle, etc.  It is on the public portal where much of the YouTube clips can be found.   Ads are placed around the YouTube players. PodZinger does not insert ads into the clips.

Search queries find moments within a video which match the specific search term.  When the video is found, a transcription brief of that point in the clip is displayed. 

The development of effective video search is critical to the success of online video.  BBN is not the only company in video search to bring national security work to this effort. Similarly, Blinkx, another video search technology firm has its roots in the national security work of Autonomy, a company closely associated with it.

Superstar VC Jim Breyer of Accel Partners is a board of member of BBN.  It was Accel and General Catalyst Partners who bought BBN from Verizon in 2004.

Update 3/15:  See Alex Laats demonstrating Podzinger on Beet.TV


Andy Plesser

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