Searching in the age of multimedia infobesity: when human and social intelligence works hand in hand with computational power

Thursday, 13 March, 2014
In today’s society we are surrounded by a vast sea of information — we find ourselves constantly bombarded by a bewildering array of messages via different platforms from media organisations, advertising agencies, and even from our friends and families.
The ability to search for specific information amongst image, video and audio material is therefore becoming crucial for many industrial and social activities. The CUbRIK project provides an open solution that combines human intelligence and machine processing capabilities to offer new prospects for multimedia search in the digital era.

Today’s search engines are powerful, complex tools but they are monolithic, offering no possibility for technology and content providers or applications integrators to design and deploy tailor-made solutions that generate relevant results for a reasonable cost and in an environment that promotes reuse and economies of scale. The CUbRIK project, the culmination of almost ten years of research, aims to develop an entirely new category of products. As the project’s scientific leaders are fond of saying: “The CUbRIK project follows in the footsteps of Stanley Kubrick, one of cinema’s most creative directors who was never afraid to challenge stereotypes, in that it aims to deliver real innovation to multimedia search.”

Complementary actions

The project activities can be broken down into three complementary strands. The first one focuses on technological development. This aspect leverages scientific and technical progress in various areas, including architectures that can be used to harness human expertise and large quantities of content; multimodal search techniques; and the analysis of social and human data. To put it simply, CUbRIK allows you to build your own search engine using different components that you can put together like Lego bricks.

The second strand integrates human and social aspects and aims to combine machine computing capabilities with human capabilities to enhance the precision of the results obtained. CUbRIK uses techniques such as crowdsourcing and microtasking to harness human sensitivity, rationality and cooperation skills within an architecture that draws on both processors and human brain cells.

The final, third strand is the deployment of a relevant marketing strategy. The marketing strategy developed for CUbRIK involves creating an open space where innovators can test the features of the system and confirm the relevance of the combined use of machine, human and social data. Communities of practice will be set up to enable external players to develop multimedia search and extraction applications. External contributors from various spheres, including search application developers, content owners, technology providers, software integrators, social and community network managers, researchers and SMEs, will be invited to start testing the platform.

CUbRIK has developed two applications that showcase the platform’s capabilities and illustrate the generative power of the concepts implemented within the project. The first application is geared towards research in history and digital humanities; the second is aimed at the world of fashion.

Building the social graph of European integration history through audiovisual archives

Historical research has traditionally focused on mainly text-based primary or secondary sources. But with the widespread adoption of new information and communication technologies, images and videos are becoming increasingly important sources for the humanities. CUbRIK has developed an application within the field of European integration history that can be used to explore the relationships between political figures whose faces appear together in a broad corpus of audiovisual material. This application combines automatic face recognition with interaction and validation tools involving groups of experts. As Dr Lars Wieneke, a researcher in the CVCE’s Digital Humanities Lab, explains: “This is a heuristic tool which will be built up through the contributions made by its users — it does not impose a preconceived reality.”

Helping European SMEs spot fashion trends

The fashion world is always on the lookout for new ideas and innovations that can be used to develop new products or launch new collections. CUbRIK has developed a fashion-based application that will allow garment producers and distributors to engage in a permanent dialogue with their clients so that they can identify their preferences and pinpoint the latest market trends by analysing interactions on social media. The project provides small and medium-sized companies with tools that were previously only available to larger-scale enterprises. Companies can also use the application to launch open innovation processes with their clients so that they can work together to develop new trends.

Human-enhanced time-aware multimedia search
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