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PodZinger, TED, And Alex Laats

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The TEDTalks series featuring talks by Al Gore, David Pogue, Tony Robbins, and others at the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference can be searched for words and phrases with the help of PodZinger’s video search technology.

TED features notable speakers at its annual conference, and now those talks are more open to its website visitors. Through the use of the PodZinger video search engine, visitors can sift through the TEDTalks repository of speaker talks more effectively.

The usefulness of PodZinger’s search goes beyond text matching. Owned by BBN Technologies, a company with 30 years of speech recognition research, PodZinger has been honed over the past decade. PodZinger president Alex Laats asserted in an interview that BBN are the leader in speech recognition and natural language technology.

PodZinger moved out of beta in January 2006. The first incarnation focused on audio-only search. Video came later, in March, and a Spanish version followed in May. Laats said they have more languages planned for future releases.

Like many projects, PodZinger has been searching for monetization opportunities. They have a “white label” service planned for partnerships, where a licensee like a content creator pays for use of PodZinger behind the scenes.

Key to that will be quality search, according to Laats. This means crawling not just the content for speech recognition processing, but the metadata contained in the media enclosures.

Laats said that PodZinger crawls that content, processes it, and tags every word it finds with a confidence score. “PodZinger peers into ‘black space’ that other engines don’t see,” said Laats.

He provided an interesting insight into podcasting in general at this point. Laats said that PodZinger’s research showed a 20 to 1 ratio of people who play podcasts online as opposed to downloading them, presumably from there to a portable media player.

The work has just begun for PodZinger. Their initial big challenge was to craft PodZinger into having a high enough accuracy with its search, while simplifying the user experience.

Laats noted their next challenge would be to develop a monetization plan that will benefit content creators as well as advertisers. If it’s done well enough, maybe Laats will be one of TED’s future presenters.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

PodZinger, TED, And Alex Laats
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