Real Networks 20/20 and Star Search use AI to identify celebrities in videos

RealNetworks has unveiled two video innovations for consumers that use artificial intelligence to identify faces of celebrities in videos.

StarSearch by Real is a browser extension that enables consumers to instantly identify celebrities and other famous people in any video streamed from YouTube, Netflix, and other popular sites. It brings the power of AI to your media and it’s not a bad way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Real’s streaming technology, said Rob Glaser, CEO of RealNetworks, in an interview with VentureBeat. A clickable indicator appears in a video where you can pause the action and identify a celebrity. When you click, you’ll see the celebrity’s name and a brief bio. You can also click through to find more information.

RealPlayer 20/20, meanwhile, is a redesigned PC media player that provides one-click video downloads and instantly spots and identifies people in videos, the scenes where they appear, and organizes media libraries by people. It uses the same AI technology as StarSearch by Real.

The AI comes from RealNetworks’ SAFR Computer Vision platform, and now it’s being applied to RealNetworks’ main media player product, which has been downloaded more than a billion times.

Above: Real Player 20/20 can organize your videos by people.

“This investment leverages things we already were doing, as it is based on our SAFR platform that we’ve already developed and brought to market,” Glaser said. “So rather than having to reinvent that from scratch, we are building on that. We’re optimistic it’s going to be an exciting product.”

Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said in an interview that the RealNetworks technology is a benign use of face-recognition AI, which can be creepy in other contexts such as video surveillance. Using it to identify celebrities isn’t a big deal because they’re public figures, he said.

With the video library, you can use the RealPlayer 20/20 to identify people that you know, such as friends and family, but that’s for your own private purposes. It’s not meant to identify people who you don’t know on the broader internet, Rayburn said.

While RealNetworks is making StarSearch by Real available for free, it can still make some money by selling advertising on the pages that it directs people to as they look for more information on a celebrity.

StarSearch is a free web extension that instantly identifies celebrities streaming on YouTube and Netflix: it answers the question, “Hey, who is that?” The browser extension even shows the scenes where celebrities appear in the web’s top videos. StarSearch saves time and makes online streaming more fun and entertaining.

RealNetworks has thousands of celebrities identified now, and it will add more over time, with the help of crowdsourcing. So you’ll find Leonardo DiCaprio identified, but probably not Dean Takahashi.

Above: StarSearch by Real can tell you facts about celebrities.

RealPlayer 20/20 is a redesign of the media player used by millions of users. Now with faster and smarter one-click downloads from thousands of sites, the free RealPlayer applies the power of StarSearch to instantly identify people, and enables consumers to browse search, organize, and watch downloaded or local videos from their media collection by people — making it more entertaining to explore and discover videos.

Frederick Savoye, vice president of consumer media at RealNetworks, said in an interview that more than 80% of consumers often or always ask themselves who’s on the screen they’re watching. There’s no longer a need to reach for your phone or do a web search. StarSearch identifies famous people with one-click, he said. You can also organize video libraries by people.

By simply clicking on a video frame that includes a famous person, StarSearch and RealPlayer 20/20 identifies famous people with a name, photo, current age, and fun facts, he said.

Imagine the convenience of watching the Academy Awards, Late Night television, or your favorite YouTube show with StarSearch to immediately skip directly to the people you care about. RealPlayer 20/20 can optionally share the celebrities that appear and their timecode locations on the web with the StarSearch extension.

Above: You can see how many times Billie Eilish appears in a video with StarSearch.

For longer videos, if you want to go straight to the part of the video where the celebrity appears, you can do so. You can also then skip to the next part where the celebrity appears, Savoye said.

StarSearch by Real is immediately available as a free web extension for Mac and PC through the Chrome store. RealPlayer 20/20 for Windows is now available for free in the U.S. and Canada, with plans to expand to other regions later this year.

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