There’s an amazing amount of video out there right now. Sure, there are the animal clips and viral videos that get hundreds or millions of views on YouTube. But there is also security footage and meeting recordings that may never make it to double-digit views, if they’re seen at all.
Microsoft wants to make sure those recordings don’t go to waste with a new feature from Azure Media Services. Today, the cloud computing team is debuting its Azure Media Analytics service, a collection of enterprise tools for inspecting the vast amounts of media created every day.
“There’s a lot of interest in making video searchable and more accessible to users,” said John Deutscher, the principal program manager for Azure Media Services. “That’s why we’re going to continue to build out on these technologies that we’re launching today to make it possible to index and find content easily.”
The new service is launching with the already-available Indexer tool, which automatically creates an index of everything said in a video or audio recording, along with four brand-new tools for analyzing video footage.
The tools can be used by companies for internal videos, but it’s also available as a backbone for other apps. A company could build on Azure Media Analytics to make home security systems a smarter, provide searching within recorded lectures, or automatically build vacation recaps from all the footage you bring back.
That last option would use the video summarization tool, which finds the most important parts of a video without having to go through the whole thing. That means users don’t have to scroll through hours of footage to find the most interesting bits. It also means companies don’t have to spend resources editing footage that may only be seen by a few people.
The video summarization tool can be augmented by another powerful option: hyperlapse. Hyperlapse is a project Microsoft has been working on for more than 20 years, allowing users to create stabilized, sped-up footage taken from action cams or other devices that shoot for long periods of time.
With the Azure Media Analytics version, users can create hyperlapse footage in the cloud, and even combine it with the summarization tool to speed through slow portions of a video and watch the important parts at normal speed.
Another feature that cuts down on the time spent watching useless video is motion detection. This has benefits for security cam footage, where Microsoft’s software can pick out when there’s significant motion in a scene while cutting out false positives like tree branches blowing in the background or other repetitive motion.
Face detection may have more use in a retail setting. Retailers can analyze footage for frequent shoppers or just count how many people enter various sections of a store. The tool can even detect emotion, helping security teams measure crowd sentiment at political events or sports venues.
The last tool in the Azure Media Analytics package is Indexer, which was already available to Azure Media Services users with support for English and Spanish. Today, the Azure team is adding support for French, German, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese and Arabic.
Indexer automatically creates speech-to-text translations for subtitles and transcripts. It builds a list of keywords from the footage for easy searching as well.
The team also announced today private previews of two more tools that will be available soon. Video optical character recognition will spot every word on screen and provide users with a fully searchable data set of those words. Content moderation is also being tested, allowing sites that accept user-generated video to automatically scan it for offensive or unwanted content.
These processes aren’t instant though. Users can choose between faster analysis or cheaper deployments depending on their needs. All the new Azure Media Analytics tools are available for free to Azure users for a limited time, with the exception of the existing Indexer’s English and Spanish services. After that, pricing is based on the amount of video processed. Users can start using the tools on existing and new video today.