S'pore R&D hub seeks next-gen search engine

A*Star, Singapore's Star R&D organization, launches a global competition for a search engine capable of handling rich media. Google welcomes such initiatives.

SINGAPORE--Local technology incubator, A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), will award US$100,000 to the winner of a contest to build a rich-media search engine.

The R&D hub announced Thursday it is launching a global competition to develop the search engine capable of identifying words within documents, audio and video files online, which have not been previously tagged within the files.

A*Star said in a statement that it expects the technology to impact users globally because of the proliferation of user-generated media on platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook.

Not all content within such media may be tagged and identified today, so the new search engine could prove useful in indexing the content more thoroughly.

Professor Chong Tow Chong, executive director of A*Star's science and engineering research council, said in a statement: "The next-generation search engines will 'know' how words sound in a song, even in the absence of any tagged information for the word."

Search giant Google released a statement saying that A*Star's quest is similar to Google's own "vision for universal search", which aims to search across varied content sources. Google said more R&D in search technology from the industry "ultimately leads to better search quality and experience for all users".

The company's steps toward "universal search" was announced in May last year. The initiative involves deploying a new technical infrastructure to support newer, advanced algorithms, as well as harnessing user behavior to refine search results, according to Google.

The eight-month competition which A*Star coined The Star Challenge 2008, is open to anyone globally and offers a cash prize of US$100,000. The winner will be decided by an international advisory panel which includes professors from Singapore and U.S. colleges Berkeley, Washington and Columbia.