Summer 2008: Register
Geek Makes Good
Math and Computer Science grad pioneers successful web video search technology
By Mary J. Loftus
Self-proclaimed techno geek Adam Beguelin 85C enjoys scuba diving, piloting an airplane, kite surfing, and being a dad. For the past year, he has lived in Vietnam. He is the owner of a Tesla Roadster that has yet to be built.
You can glean all this from reading his blog, “Geek Talk from the Hacker Class” (www.beguelin.com). He has a few other blogs as well, such as iPhone Diet, where he posts photos of what he eats and brief comments (recent entries shows a cheeseburger from Blue Ocean and a plate of scallops from Saigon).
Beguelin is the founder of Truveo, a video search company that uses pioneering web crawling technology. Truveo was acquired by AOL in 2005, just a few months after it launched.
When he spoke to the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science as a distinguished alumnus and the Evans/Hall lecturer in April, Beguelin emphasized the ways in which the abundance of the Internet is still paying off for entrepreneurial thinkers.
Truveo currently has about 40 million monthly users and more than 160 million searchable videos. “It’s the first search engine capable of indexing all the best video on the web,” he says. “Today’s dynamic web pages aren’t just text. It’s a very complex environment. A web crawler has to do a lot of things.”
The search engine needed to access most of the videos on the web, rank time-sensitive videos, use extensive metadata indexing, provide accurate recommendations based on a few key words, and count response time in milliseconds.
Then there were the challenges of handling dead links, misspellings, spam, and adult or objectionable content. Truveo, unlike many other video search engines, successfully met each of these goals largely because its developers were fluent in the intricacies of coding as well as big-picture logistics, he says.
Beguelin has been a computer science researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee, and Carnegie Mellon University, and has invented several complex software systems, one of which won the R&D 100 Award in 1994.
“We’re delighted to recognize successful alumni like Adam Beguelin,” says Vaidy Sunderam, department chair. “The ultimate reward for colleges and professors is when their students go on to make remarkable contributions to technology and to society.”
The amount of data on the web is increasing exponentially, Beguelin says—there are now about twenty billion web pages. But he sees search technology keeping up with this expansion.
In the future, he predicts, web video searches will have face and object recognition capacity: “You’ll be able to scan a photo of someone and say, ‘Find me a video of this person.’ ”