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A screen grab of a search for Al Gore on VideoSurf, a five-year-old online video search startup

Microsoft has been pretty quiet on the acquisition front in recent months, ever since shelling out $8.5 billion for Skype. But the software giant is starting to put some of its cash pile to use again, with reports out today that the company is buying San Mateo, California-based video search startup VideoSurf for about $70 million.

Described at one time as a “Shazam for video,” VideoSurf raised $28 million in venture capital financing over the past five years. Backers of the company include Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg, former Vice President Al Gore, Pitango and Verizon Ventures.

The VideoSurf Web service allows users to search a number of video sites, including Hulu, TMZ, CNN, Comedy Central and Dailymotion. For example, a search of Al Gore on VideoSurf returns a variety of results, including a spoof of the former vice president on South Park, one of his TED talks and appearances on CBS’ 60 Minutes and NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

VideoSurf was founded by four Israelis in 2006, with the company noting on its Web site that it has indexed some 50 billion “visual moments.”

Using a unique combination of new computer vision and fast computation methods, VideoSurf has taught computers to “see” inside videos to find content in a fast, efficient, and scalable way. Basing its search on visual identification, rather than text only, VideoSurf’s computer vision video search engine provides more relevant results and a better experience to let users find and discover the videos they really want to watch.

The VideoSurf service likely will be folded into Bing. We’ve asked a representative at Microsoft’s Bing unit for comment, and we’ll update this post if we hear more.

Update: The deal turns out to be more closely connected to Microsoft’s Xbox division. The company says in a news release: “Over time, Microsoft will integrate this technology across its entertainment platform to augment the Xbox 360 ecosystem and evolve search and discovery of entertainment content on Xbox LIVE.”

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