The Star Challenge 2008: Singapore In A Hurry To Build Search Engine

Tiny but cash-rich island-state of Singapore wants to own a next-generation multimedia search engine. And it wants it built fast, real fast.

Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore’s research and deveopment promotion arm is launching an eight-month global search engine development competition with a prize money of US$100,000 awarded to the winner. In a release provided by its website (PDF), contestants are required to create a search engine “smart enough to identify text, audio and video containing any word, even if that word, or search term, has not yet been tagged in the internet material”.

Singapore In A Hurry To Build Search Engine

Internet search today is largely text-based. Results from current online search technologies originate mainly from specific “tagging” of materials on the Internet. “Simply put, how successful you are in your search now depends on how extensively the information for which you are searching has been tagged by creators or users,” said Professor Chong Tow Chong, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Science and Engineering Research Council.

Dubbed “The Star Challenge 2008”, this contest is a good chance for software engineers and search engine developers who have been building integrated search solutions. The top five teams will be flown to Singapore for the finals at Fusionopolis, a science and technology research centre set to open in October.

The next-generation search engines will “know” how the word ‘exuberant’ sounds in a song, even in the absence of any tagged information for the word ‘exuberant’ in a song.” Such search engine technologies will help users navigate the large amount of rich media materials that are uploaded on the Internet including images, videos, TV shows and radio programmes but which are currently hidden behind hypertext pages.

The multi-stage competition will see teams trying to outdo one another in creating algorithms that can search audio and video files for specific characteristics, objects and events at record time, in the absence of tagged information.

I think it’s too ambitious for 100K and eight months. But I am hoping it will bring the best out of everyone joining the competition.

An international advisory panel consisting of renowned experts such as Prof. Randy Katz (Berkeley), Prof. Linda Shapiro (University of Washington), Prof. Chang Shih-Fu (Columbia) and Prof. Wong Lim Soon (National University of Singapore) will oversee and validate this inaugural technology competition.

Registration can be done at www.thestarchallenge.sg and the deadline is on 29th of February. So this mean by 2009, a new search engine will be unveiled?

Is $100,000 enough to encourage the development within eight months?

I think that amount is too little and the time is too short even if it’s just a contest. I think there are venture capitalists lurking at Silicon Valley who can shell out several times as much as the prize can offer without putting too much time pressure on developers to create that next-generation multimedia search engine.

Nevertheless, I hope the whole campaign will work out well and I’ll be happy to see another search engine break into the scene dominated by Google and company for a while.