Pluggd “perfects” audio and video search, raises $1.65M

pluggdlogo.bmpDeclaring it has “perfected the user experience” for audio and visual search, Seattle start-up Pluggd has raised $1.65 million from Intel and angel investors to help it start distributing its technology.

If you haven’t played with Pluggd, you should. It provides that “wow” experience, giving you what you intuitively want when searching video: a way to skip forward to the exact part of the audio or video file you are looking for. We’ll be hearing more about Pluggd next year, as it begins to cut partnership deals with major publishers, and comes out of the testing phase it launched two months ago.

Let’s take an example.

pluggdmarlins.bmpTake this ESPN radio recording from yesterday. Select the “find” tab, and type in the word “Marlins.” Pluggd will show you in the heat map the places most likely to be interesting to you. Orange shows a very high match. If you move the cursor there, you’ll hear the part about the Marlins. (You can do this by clicking on this image at left. You may be prompted to update your Flash player; go ahead and do so.)

But it gets even better.

pluggdinjury.bmpPluggd finds related words. Let’s say you’re looking for anything to do with injury, because you’d heard that Kobe Bryant might be injured. You type in “injury,” and Pluggd locates the part where the radio mentions his sprained ankle, even though the word “injury” is never mentioned in the audio. (Again, you can try this by clicking on image at left.)

This is impressive. Pluggd can do this by analyzing pages and pages of sports articles, and finding the statistical relationships between words. Its crawler finds that sprained ankle is very clearly correlated with the word injury over time. It does this without any sort of human domain experts. No one is doggedly typing in these associations behind the scenes. It is all automated, relying on the great database called the Web. “The Web itself represents mankind’s knowledge,” says Alexander Castro.

Right now, this cool search is only available at Pluggd’s demo site. And in case we’ve lost you, here’s a screencast tour.

Meanwhile, Pluggd has also building an inventory of ESPN and other files — now numbering more than a million — and it is busy indexing them all, so that it can make them available for crawling with its technology. Like Google, it wants to become a destination site. Also like Google, it wants to offer its technology to publishers, too, and Pluggd says it will be announcing various deals next year.

The company has boot-strapped itself until now, and the $1.65 million can be considered a seed round, to be converted into a first VC round sometime next year.

Intel made up a good portion of the investment, but more than half was contributed by a group of angels, including Scott Oki, former senior vice president for sales, marketing and service at Microsoft and Paul Maritz, former Microsoft group vice president of systems and applications. Other angels include:

–Brian Magierski, CEO of Kalivo, former co-founder/CEO of iMark (acquired by Ariba);
–Fraser Black, technology investor
–Bill Bryant, founder and investor in numerous search-focused startups including Netbot, Medio and Singingfish;
–Alex Alben, former executive at Starwave and RealNetworks;
–Barry Newman, venture partner at NeoCarta, former vice chairman of the technology group at Bear Stearns;
–Mark Klebanoff, former chief financial officer at RealNetworks.

There are a multitude of other companies focused on audio and video search (Pixsy, Podzinger and CastTV, for example), but none that are using Pluggd’s heat map approach that takes you directly to where you want to go.