This New Facial Recognition Extension IDs Celebrities in Videos — and It’s Actually Pretty Useful

Todd Bishop, GeekWire
Todd Bishop is GeekWire's co-founder and editor, a longtime technology journalist who covers subjects including cloud tech, e-commerce, virtual reality, devices, apps and tech giants such as, Apple, Microsoft and Google. Follow him @toddbishop, email, or call (206) 294-6255.

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.

This story first appeared on GeekWire.

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“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

At Super Bowl LVII, advertisers paid at least $7 million for 30–second ad spots, and even more if they didn’t have a favorable relationship with Fox. But the pricey commercials didn’t persuade everyone.

A recent report from advertising agency Kern and neuroscience marketing research outfit SalesBrain is attempting to answer that question using facial recognition and eye-tracking software.

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Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

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Taylor Swift Concert in the Metaverse? Ticketing Platform Token Is Using NFTs To Optimize Experiences

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

Taylor Swift Concert in the Metaverse? Ticketing Platform Token Is Using NFTs To Optimize Experiences
Evan Xie

When Taylor Swift announced her ‘Eras’ tour back in November, all hell broke loose.

Hundreds of thousands of dedicated Swifties — many of whom were verified for the presale — were disappointed when Ticketmaster failed to secure them tickets, or even allow them to peruse ticketing options.

But the Taylor Swift fiasco is just one of the latest in a long line of complaints against the ticketing behemoth. Ticketmaster has dominated the event and concert space since its merger with Live Nation in 2010 with very few challengers — until now.

Adam Jones, founder and CEO of Token, a fan-first commerce platform for events, said he has the platform and the tech ready to take it on. With Token, Jones is creating a system where there are no queues. In other words, fans know immediately which events are sold out and where.

“We come in very fortunate to have a modern, scalable tech stack that's not going to have all these outages or things being down,” Jones said. “That's step one. The other thing is we’re being aggressively transparent about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So with the Taylor Swift thing…you would know in real time if you actually have a chance of getting the tickets.”

Here’s how it works: Users register for Token’s app and then purchase tickets to either an in-person event, or an event in the metaverse through Animal Concerts. The purchased ticket automatically shows up in the form of a mintable NFT, which can then be used toward merchandise purchases, other ticketed events or, Adams’s hope for the future — external rewards like airline travel. The more active a user is on the site, the more valuable their NFT becomes.

Ticketmaster has dominated the music industry for so long because of its association with big name artists. To compete, Token is working on gaining access to their own slew of popular artists. They recently entered into a partnership with Animal Concerts, a live and non-live event experiences platform that houses artists like Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke.

“You'll see they do all the metaverse side of the house,” Jones said. “And we're going to be the [real-life] web3 sides of the house.”

In addition, Token prides itself on working with the artists selling on their platform to set up the best system for their fanbase, devoid of hefty prices and additional fees — something Ticketmaster users have often complained about. Jones believes where Ticketmaster fails, Token thrives. The app incentivizes users to share more data about their interests, venues and artists by operating on a kind of points system in the form of mintable NFTs.

“We can actually take the dataset and say there’s 100 million people in the globe that love Taylor Swift, so imagine she’s going on tour and we ask [the user], ‘Would you go to see her in Detroit?’ And imagine this place has 30,000 seats, but 100,000 people clicked ‘yes,’” he explained. “So you can actually inform the user before anything even happens, right? About what their options are and where to get it.”

Tixr, a Santa-Monica based ticketing app, was founded on the idea that modern ticketing platforms were “living in the legacy of the past.” They plan to attract users by offering them exclusive access to ticketed events that aren’t in Ticketmaster’s registry.

“It melts commerce that's beyond ticketing…to allow fans to experience and purchase things that don't necessarily have to do with tickets,” said Tixr CEO and Founder Robert Davari. “So merchandise, and experiences, and hospitality and stuff like that are all elegantly melded into this one, content driven interface.”

Tixr sells tickets to exclusive concerts like a Tyga performance at a night club in Arizona, general in-person festivals like ComplexCon, and partners with local vendors like The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to sell tickets to the races. Plus, Davari said it’s equipped to handle high-demand, so customers aren’t spending hours waiting in digital queues.

Like Token, Tixr has also found success with a rewards program — in the form of fan marketing.

“There's nothing more powerful in the core of any event, brand, any live entertainment, [than] the community behind it,” Davari said. “So we build technology to empower those fans and to reward them for bringing their friends and spreading the word.”

Basically, if a user gets a friend to purchase tickets to an event, then the original user gets rewarded in the form of discounts or upgrades.

Coupled with their platforms’ ability to handle high-demand events, both Jones and Davari believe their platforms have what it takes to take on Ticketmaster. Expansion into the metaverse, they think, will also help even the playing field.

“So imagine you can't go to Taylor Swift,” Jones said. “What if you could purchase an exclusive to actually go to that exact same show over the metaverse? An artist’s whole world can expand past the stage itself.”

With the way ticketing for events works now, obviously not everyone always gets the exact price, venue or date they want. There are “winners and losers.” Jones’s hope is that by expanding beyond in-person events, there can be more winners.

“If there’s 100,000 people who want to go to one show and there's 37,000 seats, 70,000 are out,” he said. “You can't fight that. But what we can do is start to give them other opportunities to do things in a different way and actually still participate.”

Jones and Davari both teased that their platforms have some exciting developments in the works, but for now both Token and Tixr are set on making their own space within the industry.

“We simply want to advance this industry and make it more efficient and more pleasurable for fans to buy,” Davari said. “That's it.”