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Microsoft Previews Azure Media Analytics Platform at NAB
A modular suite of components lets Azure customers gain more information from their videos, such as detecting faces and even emotions, and reading the text from slides.

Microsoft's Azure Media Services is gaining new skills, and NAB attendees can get a first look. The company announced Azure Media Analytics, a platform of modular tools designed to help companies get useful insights from their videos. Currently in public preview, these services are free to test for Azure customers, but don't expect them to stay that way.

The platform's new components include Face Detection that not only detects faces, but also detects their emotions; Motion Detection that's able to filter out false positives such as shadows on a wall; and Video Summarization that consolidates long videos so they can be reviewed quickly. For the summarization feature, users can select the length they want for the final video.

One of the platform's components is coming out of limited preview: Hyperlapse is similar to the Video Summarization tool, but is meant for action cam and cell phone footage; it can reduce a video's length and smooth jerky footage.

Finally, one feature, Indexer, isn't new, but has new capabilities. Announced at NAB 2015, Indexer takes the speech from a video and makes a text file, which is useful for searches. It now supports six additional languages (French, German, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Arabic) in addition to the previous English and Spanish.

Two components are still in private preview mode, but are available to motivated Azure customers: Video Optical Character Recognition can extract the content from text images within a video, such as slides, and make that content available for search. Content Moderation makes it simple to scan through user comments and nix the offensive ones. An email link the the Azure blog post helps those interested gain access.

Because the Azure Media Analytics components are modular, customers are free to select the features they need and piece together their own workflow.

The release of these services is the culmination of a long development process for some people at Azure.

"I've been doing this since the early days of Microsoft Interactive Television, and it's really exciting to see some of the capabilities that we've dreamed of and that seemed like science fiction become a reality," says John Deutscher, principal program manager lead for Microsoft Azure Media Services. "Azure Media Analytics is about providing you the capabilities to search and discover information from your video files using advanced machine learning technologies. This enables interesting scenarios such as searching for content within a speech or a lecture, searching within PowerPoint slides that may have been presented, or simply finding motion within surveillance videos. It also helps me as a father get through all of my action cam videos and make them a little more exciting."

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