Valossa takes video search to the next level with AI
Looking for that movie where Sean Connery wears red trousers? Or romantic comedies set in Hawaii? Finnish startup Valossa offers a new way to find video content with a combination of voice control and deep content analysis.
Talking to a device is no longer a sign of frustration. Voice control first appeared on our smartphones and now is increasingly used to search for movie and TV content on our Smart TVs and set-top boxes. However it is not a tech industry giant but a 10-person startup from Finland, Valossa, that claims to have taken voice-operated video searches to a whole new level.
The company’s flagship product, video search engine titled ‘Valossa Search’, enables users to find video content using complex, descriptive natural language queries.
“A person can use their own natural language when talking to a device,” explains Ville Hulkko, chief commercial officer at Valossa. “If you say ‘find me a movie where a boy learns he is a wizard’, our technology can process this and find the specific results. In this case the first Harry Potter movie, not the second or third one.”
Behind this search prowess is Valossa’s artificial intelligence (AI) powered technology. It analyses the contents of a video file or a live stream using a combination of language and pattern recognition. The service can identify over one thousand concepts, including places, people, emotions and objects, and turn them into searchable data. Welcome news to anyone who struggles to remember movie titles.
“Video search engines traditionally rely on metadata [such as keywords and names] that has been manually added by people. Our technology can automatically find descriptive terms, the metadata, from video content without any kind of human interaction,” Hulkko says.
According to Valossa’s tests, its search engine can be as much as 10 times more effective in finding movies based on people’s descriptions than current commercial movie services, including the likes of Youtube Movies and Amazon Prime Instant Video.
The American appeal
While Valossa was officially founded only in October, it is built on strong roots. The technology is based on years of research by company CEO Mika Rautiainen at the University of Oulu in Northern Finland. This work culminated in a successful analysis of over 300 000 live digital TV broadcasts for Finnish national broadcaster Yle.
Now Valossa believes the time is right to take its search engine into commercial use. The startup has its sights set on video content providers, on-demand services and device manufacturers – especially in the US.
“It is a cold fact in our industry that you have to be in the US. The markets and all the players are there,” says Hulkko who himself moved to San Francisco in August to build local presence for Valossa. “If you are not present in the US market, they have hard time to think of you as a worthwhile player.“
The startup says it is currently in discussions with a few major companies regarding the implementation of Valossa Search, but cannot yet reveal any names. As Hulkko puts it, entering a new market is a dance where the big players lead and a small company has to choose its steps carefully.
It seems Valossa has chosen its steps well. The company started its US-expansion by winning the Silicon Valley based Start Pitch competition in October and in December secured 650 000 US dollars in seed funding from Butterfly Ventures and Finnish angel investors.
Speak to your device
Although voice-controlled video search is Valossa’s main product, it is not the only card in the company’s pocket. Namely Valossa is working on real-time content analysis and cooperation with advertising technology companies for contextual advertising.
“What we are planning now is analysis of live TV broadcasts where we automatically recognise key terms from the live feed. This means we can link relevant ads into the video content or we can produce descriptive metadata for interested parties,” Hulkko explains.
Constant development of new features is key for Valossa. Hulkko believes the need for innovative voice-powered technologies will only grow as augmented reality and smart glasses, which lack traditional touch interfaces, slowly become part of our everyday lives.
“We want our technology to become an industry standard for voice-controlled video searches,” Hulkko says. “As AI keeps developing we would like to see all video analysis have a piece of our AI technology in it.”
In the future according to Valossa, there will be nothing strange about speaking to the devices around us. And if they work as well as the company promises, we will believe that.
Text: Eeva Haaramo