The Candidate Said What?!

Google’s new video-search gadget not yet a boon to reporters, but it will be

Google packs a potential reportial punch with its new speech-to-text technology, which it announced Monday as its contribution to campaign tracking. Now, a Google gadget can search for terms—like “energy” or “health” or “Afghanistan”—within videos on YouTube’s Politician channels (where the campaigns post clips of their candidate’s speeches, appearances, and ads), all via a nifty algorithm that uses speech recognition to transcribe spoken words into text.

You can also jump to the exact parts of the video where the searched-for word is spoken, and if you pass your mouse over the time-elapse bar, you get a brief—and fairly accurate—transcript of just that portion of the video.

The tool has yet to become a truly useful one, for reporters anyway. Right now, only video that has been vetted by the campaigns is available to search. But if Google eventually extends this speech-to-text capability to general user-posted videos, it would enable political reporters to search through old footage of the candidates before they were candidates, particularly older speeches or appearances for which there are no transcripts readily available.

In the meantime, it tells us that Obama said “you know” ten times on Jimmy Kimmel Live a month ago, and that a month before that, at a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, McCain used the phrase “my friends” eight times. So, not game-changing information, but you see the potential.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.