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Friday, 28th May 2010

Quaero: 'Inspiring' Specialty Search in Europe + Impressive Video Search From Exalead

Note: The URL from the Wall Street Journal in the URL directly below comes via Google News. Why? If you visit the WSJ site you'll only see a very short version of the article. You need to be a subscriber to view the full text.

However, if you enter the headline into Google News and hit search the story should appear either at the top or in the in the top 3. Click the headline and you're now able to view the full text. This service has been available for some time so use it while it lasts. It will likely go (if it goes) with zero notice. So, if for whatever reason the WSJ link below doesn't work, head to Google News, follow the simple steps we just mentioned and the full text article should be on your screen in a matter of seconds. Btw, WSJ articles with Google URLs are only available for a short time. There is no archive.

In an article with the headline, "French Seek to Beat Google on Video Search" in the Wall St. Journal, Max Colchester reports on demos of the often discussed (for a time) various search and research tools that are being developed by several companies the are part of the Quaero.

Quaero, which was set up two years ago, showed off software that converts spoken language into written text; a program that synchronizes electronic books to audio books; and an automatic translation device which turns German into English (though not into French).

"If you want to respond to the U.S. technological invasion, then you have to master your own technology," says Pieter van der Linden, chief co-coordinator of the Quaero project. But he said the aim was to create specialist applications and encourage research in the sector, rather than replace existing search engines. "Quaero is not about creating a single search engine with a name like Quaero.com. It's about sharing resources."

You'll notice the "not creating a single search engine" concept when you see the first page of the newsletter linked below. One thing you'll quickly spot is the "Inspired by Quaero" logo and slogan.

So, the group of companies involved in quaero are sharing resources with a focus to building specialty applications like a multimedia search/research related tools mentioned in the WSJ article.

Here's the Quaero homepage but we were unable to find any current information on it (for example, a story dated 2010). If you dive into the full site you will find a few interesting items but dates can sometimes be difficult to find.

For us, the most exciting part of the article was the mention of Exalead. Those of you have been searching for several years likely remember the Exalead consumer search engine. Is it slowly but surely ready for a comeback? A few thoughts about it in the next post.

These days Exalead is a major player in the enterprise search marketplace especially in Europe. They're a French company based in Paris and a member of Quaero. However, it's not only Europe they sell to. Recently Exalead became the search provider for a massive database (constantly growing) of digitized newspaper pages from NewspaperArchive.com. Although it's a fee-based service we think it's time for another look at NewspaperArchive.

The WSJ article focuses on Exalead's multimedia search technology that's now being by the French government. See it here and if you speak French. Enjoy!

On the English language Exalead site site you'll find a section named Exalabs.

Here you'll find English language version of an Exalead video search tool (betas, of course) that actually work and can be used for free online. Say hello to Voxalead/Voxalead News

Fast Facts:

+ Searches "inside" audio and video

+ Uses speech to text technology

+ Works with six languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Arab and Chinese

+ Markets to Focus Product For: 1) Media 2) Call Centers 3) Police and Military

+ Run a keyword search. Select a result. Click the one you wan to view. Transcript of result appears below video, words highlighted as they are spoken, page scrolls automatically. You can also scroll ahead or if your near the end, scroll back. Click on any word or phrase or a colored word on the left side of page and you'll go directly to where those word(s) are spoken.

+ Exalead says next version will offer time-coded video. Users will be able to select a beginning and end time and then search with that time frame.

+ Make sure to use quotes for phrases and names

To run some searches, head to Voxalead News

Directly below and right side of search box is a link to select your sources. This is optional as there is a default set.

Note the search suggestions appearing at bottom of the search box. Another access point is a very useful interactive graph that's clickable and found at top of results pages. Select a day, click and you'll see the video for your search terms from that day. It also provides a visualization of when words word spoken so you get some idea of tv coverage for a group of days.

Here's a search for "gulf of mexico" bp blame

We selected a May 22, 2002 edition of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

Bottom Line
We've been using various audio/video search tools for years. This is one most impressive tools we've seen in the multimedia category. It's powerful, it's easy to navigate page, we think the learning curve is not a major issue.

However, they're not the only ones in this space. Two others are Virage (an Autonomy company), Nexidia,, Google (via YouTube), and media monitoring services like TVEyes (they also provide radio monitoring) and CriticalMention

More Multimedia

Recently, we posted about Chromatik, an image engine that allows the user to search by color. A useful and yes, fun tool.

Additional Background About Quaero

The Quaero project started four years ago by the French and German governments, and then-President Jacques Chirac said they would "take up the global challenge posed by Google and Yahoo!" The venture was christened Quaero Latin for "I seek."

We first posted about Quaero in 2006 and in one post from 2007 we linked to an overview (at that time) from Pandia. Search Engine Watch was on the story from the beginning. Here's one post from 2005 pointing out that Thomson (a French Company), was seeking money for the project but not so many years before owned its own multimedia search engine named SingingFish and they sold that tech to an American company (of all country's to sell it to) that you've heard of named AOL.

Even the headline of the WSJ article that got this post started was about how France wants to beat Google in Video Search. This Wikipedia page has more details about Quaero including when and why engineers from Germany left the project. It would be interesting to find out if any of the German developers or SingFish developers now work for Google.

Now, it's time for you to go to Voxalead News and demo the database.

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