(Updated 2002-07-29, see below.)
The New York Times reports that Amazon is considering a service to allow their users to do a full-text search on the text of all books, and then view the surrounding excerpt. When combined with Amazon’s tabs for Movie Showtimes and Restaurants (including scanned menus), the Times suggests, it almost looks like Amazon is trying to compete with Google.
This reminds me of an idea I had the other day: TV searching. Google hooks up a bunch of their machines to video capture cards and begins recording all the TV channels. Then, they make a full-text available using the closed captioning information.
So, let’s say you’re curious about Howard Dean’s stance of smallpox vaccinations. You Google TV for “Howard Dean smallpox” and get back a bunch of animated GIFs showing key scenes (basically a still whenever the picture majorly changes) from the surrounding show, perhaps with a short textual excerpt from cleaned up closed captioning data. You can quickly scan and pick out the one you want — an interview with Dean on Meet the Press. Google then streams the TV excerpt to you live so you can see and hear first-hand what Dean said.
Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Giving people access to the content they see on TV would go a long way towards this.
If Google isn’t up for this, maybe the Internet Archive is. They have a Television Archive of news around the world after September 11. What about the rest of time?
Update: Rob Hague points out AT&TV, an AT&T Cambridge research project which did essentially what I describe. The screenshots look awesome.
Joel Abrams and Paul Bausch pointed to TVEyes, whose free consumer service will email you an excerpt whenever a selected word or phrase comes through in the closed captioning. Apparently they also have for-pay services that do more.