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Cable-Tec Expo: Comcast Team Developing Smarter Search

DENVER — Linear TV isn’t dead, but the ability to search for and find relevant live TV content has historically been limited by the technology underpinning older on-screen guides and the use of static metadata such as a show’s title and baseline description.

In an effort to help viewers discover and surface relevant content from multiple live sources, a unit of Comcast has been hard at work at a smarter search platform that can collect and present clips on specific topics that are powered by deep metadata that’s pulled from the contents of the video itself.

The result can remove friction from finding linear TV content and also help viewers discover programs and content from channels that they perhaps were not even aware of, Chris Lintz, senior principal architect for Comcast’s VIPER team, said here Thursday at SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo on a panel session titled “Enhancing the Interactive Experience.”

Read More: Complete Coverage of Cable-Tec Expo 2017

VIPER (Video IP Engineering & Research) is a unit of Comcast that designs and develops IP video solutions that support products such as X1, the company’s cloud DVR, and apps for mobile devices.

“We don’t have to be bound by the traditional guide and search on static metadata,” Lintz said. “There’s a gap in linear content discovery.”

The system being developed would let a viewer input a query into the platform (i.e., “Donald Trump and health care” or “Amazon and Whole Foods”), which, in turn would engage in a continuous, real-time program dialogue search and video analysis search engine that would look at individual components such as shots and scenes.

When a match is made, the data would be sent to a notification service and a recording would be scheduled based on that information. Results could include video clips from programming that the customer is entitled to as part of their subscription and also list of content that they aren’t entitled to, but maybe could be if they added that programming to their pay package.

In addition to assembling those clips into the DVR, the system could also be made to send alerts to the viewer on their mobile devices when a clip on the query topic is available for viewing.

Lintz said the system is about two years in the making. “Doing real-time search is hard,” he stressed, noting that the VIPER team has some ideas on how to include an alerts feature that doesn’t overwhelm the customer.

Comcast hasn’t announced when it might turn the project into a commercial product. “It’s a real system in our lab,” Lintz said.

Though VIPER has had this under development for some time, some of that work appears to stem from Comcast’s acquisition earlier this year of Watchwith, a video tech firm that had built a deep video metadata system that can decipher what’s happening inside a move, TV show or sporting event on a frame-by-frame basis.

Prior to acquiring Watchwith and its technology, Comcast was using the company’s technology for some relatively new features for its X1 service, including “Auto-Extend,” which automatically extends DVR recordings of sporting events that go beyond their scheduled airtimes, and a sports highlight component that auto-creates metadata tags that let viewers jump directly to key plays or moments in a sporting event that’s recorded to the DVR