This New Facial Recognition Extension IDs Celebrities in Videos — and It’s Actually Pretty Useful
RealNetworks is releasing a browser extension that automatically identifies celebrities and other public figures in YouTube and Netflix videos, using the same facial recognition technology that the company originally developed for use with live surveillance video at schools, casinos and airports."StarSearch by Real" doubles as a video navigation tool, pinpointing the places the celebs appear in the videos, and letting users quickly jump to those spots.
No, it's not going to revolutionize the web, like the company did 25 years ago with its early streaming media technology. But I've been trying out a preview, and it's a surprisingly handy little tool, albeit in a pretty narrow set of circumstances.
So far, I'm primarily using it to skip directly to the portion of a news segment that features the person I'm interested in hearing from.
StarSearch is available starting today as a Chrome extension for Windows and Mac, and as a feature of the new RealPlayer 20/20 software for Windows PCs.
It's not available via set-top devices or smartphones. But the way RealNetworks CEO and founder Rob Glaser sees it, when it comes to video, the PC is back.
"A super interesting thing has happened in the last three months, which is the PC has yet again moved to the center of video in the context of the pandemic," Glaser said on a recent video call where he and other RealNetworks showed the new products. "It's really been a Renaissance period for PCs."
Although the Chrome extension is limited to Netflix and YouTube at launch, the company says it will expand to more video apps and streaming services over time.
"We figured those were the two best places to start, but we're going to branch out support to pretty much any major video source on the web," Glaser said.
The release comes at a time of heightened concern over facial recognition technologies due to issues of privacy and bias. This consumer application, focused on celebrities, isn't likely to raise those kinds of alarm bells, but it's an example of how pervasive facial recognition is becoming in many technology products.
It's the first time RealNetworks has brought AI into one of its consumer products. It's also the first expansion of the company's SAFR facial recognition technology beyond its core market in live video surveillance. The company launched SAFR two years ago, initially for schools, before expanding to public health and public safety.
StarSearch is a free extension. It brings up thumbnail celebrity bios that link to a RealPlayer "Discover" site that includes ads, but the main benefit to RealNetworks would be if StarSearch were to spur more RealPlayer downloads. RealPlayer these days is used largely for downloading, organizing and playing videos. RealPlayer 20/20 is a Windows app that comes in both free and premium versions, starting at $24.99.
In the StarSearch browser extension, the facial recognition is limited to celebrities and other notable people, but people can use it in RealPlayer 20/20 to tag and find family members and friends in their own videos.
Dan Rayburn, a streaming media analyst and consultant who got a preview of the technology, said he could envision StarSearch ultimately expanding beyond celebrities, even identifying inanimate objects such as a company name, a type of car, or a sports team in a video.
"Over time, it's going to become more and more personalized, where you have more options and you can pick what you want that tag to really be," Rayburn said.
RealNetworks says StarSearch differs from other offerings, such as Amazon X-Ray on Prime Video, by using AI to identify people on the fly, rather than manually indexing videos in advance.
Glaser, who worked at Microsoft before starting RealNetworks, said the interaction between the SAFR and StarSearch teams reminds him of how Microsoft Windows became better back in the day because Microsoft's internal Excel and Word teams were building on the platform and pushing Windows to improve.
"Having a team of people that are really relying on SAFR, putting it through the paces, pushing it, has actually made SAFR better," he said. "So hopefully we'll get some synergies like that out of this too."
Asked if RealNetworks secured the StarSearch trademark from the company that holds the rights to the old Ed McMahon talent search show, Glaser noted that it's specifically called "StarSearch by Real."
RealNetworks' Consumer Media division, which includes RealPlayer, generated $3.5 million in revenue in the first quarter, about 8% of the company's overall revenue. RealNetworks posted a net loss of $4.6 million, with $19 million in cash on hand as of the end of the quarter, after Glaser invested $10 million in the company in February. The company received a $2.87 million loan through the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program in April.
Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.
The Trump administration is ordering TikTok and WeChat be banned from all U.S. mobile app stores as of Sunday, effectively pulling one of the hottest apps in America from the reach of interested new users.
The yanking of the two apps from U.S. mobile stores come after the U.S. Department of Commerce detailed on Friday exactly what President Donald Trump's Aug. 6 executive order banning "transactions" with TikTok means. Trump's ban prohibits "any provision of service to distribute or maintain" the apps in U.S. mobile app stores, the department said.
On Thursday, July 16, dot.LA kicked off the first in our series of "Female Founders Stories," with the aim of holding candid conversations with the minds behind some of the city's most innovative startups.
Chief host and correspondent Kelly O'Grady spoke with WeeCare Co-founder & CEO Jessica Chang as well as DropLabs Founder & CEO Susan Paley about their "aha" moments and experiences as women leading L.A. startups.
Susan Paley is the founder & CEO of DropLabs
Susan Paley, Founder & CEO of DropLabs<p>Susan Paley is the founder and CEO of DropLabs, a first-of-its-kind tech company on a mission to enable the world to feel sound from the ground up. With their first release, a sneaker called the EP 01, DropLabs integrates audio technology and footwear to deliver a truly immersive audio-sensory experience you can feel throughout your entire body. Over the course of her 20+ year career in consumer technology, Susan has been the driving force behind some of the most innovative consumer products. Most notably, Susan was the initial CEO of Beats By Dre, where she successfully guided all aspects of the company's unparalleled growth to make it the #1 headphone provider globally. </p>
Jessica Chang is co-founder & CEO of WeeCare
Jessica Chang, Co-Founder & CEO of WeeCare<p>WeeCare is the easiest way for teachers, new moms and caregivers to start and manage a successful home daycare. We're addressing the $28B home childcare market, offering startup services to navigate the daycare licensing process and providing a business-in-a-box toolset to simplify operations, generate additional revenue and delight parents. Founded by a team of moms, preschool owners and successful technology founders, WeeCare is creating affordable, quality daycares accessible to all families.<br><br>Before WeeCare's founding, Jessica worked in finance and operations and gathered experience in early education through owning Los Angeles preschools. </p>
Kelly O'Grady, Chief Host and Correspondent<p>Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, she also served on Disney's Corporate Strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.</p>
- Join Us for Our First 'Female Founders Stories' Event: WeeCare and ... ›
- tea drops and Sklar CEOs Talk About Making it in LA - dot.LA ›
- Slingshot Aerospace's Melanie Stricklan on 'Female Founders Stories' - dot.LA ›