When YouTube hit the internet in 2005, it changed the way we viewed videos online. Suddenly we could search for almost anything and watch related videos instantly. Now viewing video online has become an everyday activity and users all over the world spend billions of hours watching online video.
I have been fortunate enough be part of a closed beta realease for a new video service called “Image2Play” developed by Korean startup Enswers. As soon as I used ‘Image2Play’, I knew straight away that it had that ‘wow’ factor which could definitely revolutionize the way users view videos online like YouTube did. I took a closer look at the company to find out more about Image2Play and its other services.
Enswers was founded five years ago, the company’s name a combination of the words ‘entertainment’ and ‘answer’. Essentially, the company aims to provide entertainment related solutions and products, and is deeply involved in online media and search technology. Recently Enswers announced that they had been acquired by major operator KT and have developed several products over the years.
Image2Play is Enswers’ latest service which searches for videos via images on a webpage. Operated through a browser plug-in, the service automatically takes all the images displayed on a webpage and runs it through its database of millions of videos in a matter of seconds. If the image returns a match, a play button is displayed in the top-right corner and clicking the button instantly plays the video match.
While using the closed beta, I have become surprised at how much I use the service myself. Whether browsing a news site or blog, once the play button pops up, it is very hard to stop yourself from clicking to watch the video. Though videos appear to only be a minute long, it is enough to give you more information on the picture or simply watch a good portion of the video it came from.
Worldwide, the number of users uploading content continues to grow and finding videos or clips of copyrighted material has become a lot harder these days due to sites like YouTube clamping down on unlicensed uploads. Enswers has solved this problem by going straight to media outlets from the beginning and has made agreements to prevent any breach of copyright.
The extensive amount of video available from major networks, cable channels and even movie channels is very impressive. The benefit for broadcasters lies in publicity and revenue, as Enswers also intends to add marketing and purchasing features — users could for example, purchase a DVD series or movie which matches the search result.
The domestic market in South Korea is Image2Play’s primary target market but the service has already picked up much interest internationally. Earlier this year Enswers were chosen out of teams from Korea, China and Japan to demonstrate the product at the AsiaD conference in Hong Kong. At the conference COO Sherman Li showed how Image2Play technology can also be used in conjunction with mobile devices.
View a video of the Image2Play demonstration at AsiaD below.
Enswers’ other products have also helped the company’s success. In early 2011 the company decided to acquire popular Korean entertainment site Soompi. The website allows users to subtitle episodes of foreign TV programs and dramas so a wider audience can enjoy them. Enswers revamped the website using its own media technology. The site has been hugely successful worldwide drawing approximately 6 million visitors per month, boosted by the growing popularity of Korean dramas and music around the world.
One of the company’s earlier services enswer.me was a video search tool which utilizes a number of different video sites including YouTube, Veoh, Hulu and other international sites such as China’s Youku, Japan’s NicoNicoDouga and Korea’s Pandora.tv. When a search is made, the site cross-references results to filter out irrelavent duplicate videos and tells you how many overlapping videos there are. According to the comapny’s website Enswer.me does this by using a “proprietary ClusterRank search algorithm and VideoFuse large-scale clustering technology”.
Enswers’ products and technology are also sold to other businesses such as Platform-V, a P2P platform which monetizes downloadable content while ensuring copyright of content is protected. Other solutions such as audio fingerprinting technology and interactive TV with smartphones are also listed as solutions that Enswers has on offer.
PR Manager Kim Ju-yeon explained that Enswer’s definitely sees itself as a global competitor.
“Of course all companies compete in the market, but going global is one of our main goals and we can reach it with our technology.”