Internet TV megaportal Hulu has added a new feature (under its Hulu Labs “this is still an experiment” label) that’s simple but powerful: You can now do text searches that’ll scour the captions that many shows incorporate–letting you find shows that incorporate certain terms, then fast-forward directly to the relevant spot in the program.
End result: It’s now possible to pinpoint interesting tidbits embedded deep within shows, where you’d never otherwise be able to find them.
Searching caption information is far from a new idea (I think I first ran across it in software bundled with ATI’s All-in-Wonder TV tuner cards eons ago). And what you really want is a search index that uses not only captions but speech-to-text conversions of the soundtracks of shows, so even programs with no captions are fully incorporated. I suspect we’ll get that for virtually all video on the Web, and it won’t take too long. (If Google isn’t cooking up something along these lines even as we speak, I’d be startled.)
For now, though, this is neat–and yet another reason to love Hulu.