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RealNetworks Brings Facial Recognition to Real 20/20 and StarSearch Chrome Plugin

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Over the last few years, RealNetworks invented a highly-regarded facial-recognition technology called SAFR that’s primarily deployed in security-related applications. This week the company announced the first two consumer deployments of that technology in StarSearch, a Chrome browser extension that identifies celebrities in YouTube videos and on Netflix, and facial recognition in RealPlayer 20/20. While the utility of these products will vary by user, SAFR really shines in both applications, particularly in RealPlayer 20/20.

The image atop this article shows StarSearch (which is free) working in a YouTube video, the recent "Graduate Together 2020." When faces appear in a YouTube video, the StarSearch icon appears on the upper left. If you click the icon, StarSearch scans the face and checks for a match in a database of approximately 15,000 celebrities (and growing), including politicians, actors, and notable athletes, which usually takes a moment or two. If recognized, you can click the face to get more information. You can also click over to https://discover.real.com/ to see a database of videos within which that person appears.

If the video is pre-indexed by RealNetworks or a RealPlayer user (more on indexing later), all recognized faces appear in the video and you can click to the location in the video where that person appears. That’s what you see on the left in the photo above. If you have RealPlayer installed, you can download that video from YouTube, and if the video is indexed that data comes along. 

As a Chrome extension, StarSearch doesn’t work if you’re watching YouTube or Netflix on anything other than a computer, though Real is looking to move to other platforms. So, at least in the short term, if you mostly watch Netflix and YouTube on your smart TV, SearchSearch offers limited utility.

RealPlayer 20/20

On the other hand, incorporating facial recognition into a video library adds wonderful functionality that anyone with more than a few videos will appreciate. To test this feature, I input a few dozen family videos, some quite old. RealPlayer scanned the videos, recognized the people, and presented a list of faces that I could click and name. This is the indexing process I mentioned above.

Click the face and you’re taken to a list of videos within which that person appears, with the ability to jump to where they appear in that video. You see that in Figure 2, which shows the 26 videos that my eldest daughter appeared in and where.  The videos showed my children ranging in age from around 10 through about 23, so there were actually multiple sets for each daughter at different ages.

If you’re a parent with lots of videos, the utility is clear. Ditto if you’re a video collector and want the ability to search through your videos by the actor. Beyond these applications, a number of business-oriented uses come to mind for any organization that’s building a database of video content that it doesn’t want to manually tag with metadata.

RealPlayer 20/20 SAFR
Figure 2. Finding Whatley, then about 10, in 26 videos.

As mentioned, RealPlayer 20/20 has integrated download capabilities, so if you’re watching a video that isn’t protected by DRM you can download it and index it. I downloaded The Graham Norton Show: Some of the Best Ever Moments, which wasn’t pre-indexed by RealNetworks, from YouTube and ran it through RealPlayer’s facial recognition process. On a single-Xeon HP ZBook notebook, RealPlayer analyzed the file in 7:30 (min:sec) and found about 35 guests, all recognized by the RealNetworks database. A single click would take me to where they appeared in the video. Though I’m not an expert in facial recognition, the feature seemed quite robust, for example recognizing the host both with and without a beard.

RealNetworks 20/20 SAFR Graham Norton

Figure 3. RealPlayer indexed this video and found 35 guests.

During installation, RealPlayer 20/20 asks if you want to participate in the customer improvement program. If you answer yes, any indexing that you perform that includes celebrities in the RealNetworks database is shared with other StarSearch and RealPlayer 20/20 users. Pictures, videos, or other information about people not in the database (i.e., family and friends) is never shared.

RealPlayer has a free version with both facial recognition and low-resolution download capabilities, but it includes advertisements. There are multiple upgrade paths available that remove the advertisements and improve functionality that you can read about at https://www.real.com/realplayer_pricing.

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