Semantic video indexing app

The newest version of Mac OS, called “Mountain Lion,” includes “Dictation,” which is a piece of system software that takes speech and converts it to text. This is nothing new, of course. I remember that I had a piece of dictation software for my old Windows 98 PC. You had to “train” the software to understand what you said, and even then it was wildly inaccurate, but in principle, this sort of software has existed for a long time. Dictation on Mac OS is much better than the one I had back in 1998, but of course it is not perfect.

That particular piece of software I had on my PC was not built in to the operating system. I had to pay for it. Not only that, but because it didn’t work very well, I never got another dictation programme again. But now that this one is built into the OS, I think I’m going to try an experiment.

Here’s my inspiration: In Star Trek, every character keeps a “log,” and because it’s the future, it’s an audio log. In The Next Generation, they were often shown as video (b)logs. Sometimes, in order to advance the plot, a character would be shown searching through his own (or another person’s) logs. What was interesting was that the search would usually be a semantic keyword search. Something like, “Computer, show me all log entries relating to the warp core” (or whatever they were interested in at the time). With dictation software now a standard feature in OS X, we’re at a point where we could write an app that does exactly what the computer did in Star Trek.

The workflow will be as follows: Take a video (or a set of videos) that you’re interested in, and extract the audio. Divide the one big audio file into hundreds of smaller (say, ten-second-long), overlapping audio files that are annotated with their start time in the original video. For each of these smaller files, pass them through the dictation software and generate a text file that includes the text that has been generated by the system’s text-to-speech dictation software. And voilà, you have generated a time-encoded text index for your video—just like the one on YouTube, but you wouldn’t have to upload the file.

Wrap this all up in a shiny OS X app wrapping and put it on the App Store. Sell it for $0.99.

Then, if you had a bunch of videos—say, seasons 5–6 of Doctor Who, and you wanted to find all references to “the Silence,” you could install the app, have it index your iTunes library, and then do a search through your videos for certain keywords or phrases.

Actually, this might work. If anyone wants to collaborate with me on this one, hit me up in the comments.

Edit: I take it back. A quick experiment with Dictation indicates that we are nowhere near having the technology to be able to do this.

The Carlisle-Desroches Quidditch Hoop Construction Manual

I discovered last week that the Carlisle-Desroches Quidditch Hoop Construction Manual was incorporated into the latest version of the IQA rulebook! Hooray!

We never received any official notice from the IQA—we found out about this when one of my teammates noticed a reference to the design on the IQA site. Anyway, we’re honoured, and this has inspired us to put some more work into it. Also, one of the members of the McGill Quidditch team has asked us to re-think the bases for the hoops this summer.

Hence, we plan to build, test and release the Mark II Carlisle-Desroches Quidditch Hoop over the course of the summer. The new design which will be the same as the original, but with an alternate base that’s probably made of PVC rather than the current bucket-o-concrete. For the record, I like the bucket-o-concrete, but some have raised concerns about safety. They’re afraid that people will hit their heads.

Solid dairy confinement

Solid Dairy Confinement
Solid Dairy Confinement

I am in the process of writing a post on the 2011 Quidditch World Cup, but I’m too tired to finish it right now, and I haven’t even gone through the photos yet.

So in the meantime, here’s something I pulled out of the file on my computer marked “not quite ready for public consumption.”

I’ve thought for a while that the attached image or something like it, would be good on a t-shirt. I think it’s funny. And it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had for a t-shirt design.

Incidentally, the linked image is sized to make it fit nicely onto an iPhone lock screen.

Sweden Sour Pork

The Swedish Chef
Bork bork bork

The result of a mispronunciation of “sweet-and-sour pork,” Sweden sour pork is a great culinary idea for someone looking to make it big in the competitive and lucrative world of naming foods that don’t sound very good in a way that makes them sound nearly the same as other more popular foods.

To pull it off properly, though, you’d need to be a chef from Sweden. A Swedish Chef, if you will.

Smelly candles that don’t stink when you blow them out

I’ve always got a bunch of great ideas. Seriously. This is even better (and probably more profitable) than my idea for replacing “quatre-vingt-dix” in French with “trois-trente.” (“Trois-trente huit, trois-trente neuf, cent—prêt pas prêt j’y vais!” Anyone who has studied French as a second language will agree that this is a very reasonable first step toward reforming the French language.)

By the way, if you take my idea and make a million dollars off it, by reading this sentence, you agree, in a legally-binding sense, to give me the trifling cut of only 40% of the profits. I’m pretty sure that’s how this works. I saw it on the internet once.

Here’s my idea. I have some candles in my apartment. Smelly candles. Some are supposed to smell like fruits, some like gingerbread. When the candles are burning, they smell wonderful. This is good.

The problem comes when I blow the candles out. Every smelly candle does this: When you blow it out, it smells like smoke and something burning, and all the benefit of having lit a smelly candle in the first place is gone forever. This is bad.

Here is my proposed solution. Someone should invent a smelly candle that doesn’t stink when you blow it out. You could do this through the use of … umm … chemistry. Or maybe some sort of apparatus that contains the smoke and releases it slowly over several hours, so that I don’t notice it until it’s already over. At least there wouldn’t be the swift and dramatic difference between everything smelling good, and then all of a sudden, smoke and burning things. Maybe I just need to get an airtight jar made of a strong kind of glass whose top I can close when I want to extinguish the candle. I imagine that there would be complications because the air would all be burned up inside the glass, but we can let the engineers solve that one.

Any thoughts?