The engine can be used to search any type of source video or image because it converts all material to a common format before indexing.
Researchers are now working on search interfaces for the system and have outlined several ways to search using the technology.
Using NEC's new engine, you may select objects from a gallery, or supply an example of what you want instead of entering words.
The engine could then look through the indexed data for matches. Or you might even sketch what you want and launch your search from the sketch.
Researchers are also looking at ways that text queries could search the database. They acknowledge this may be difficult, because users will have to describe succinctly what they are looking for in a way the engine will understand.
The database through which the searches are performed will be made up of data files that are 63 bits in size and created from the image or scene once it is converted into the common format. This data file is approximately 1/30th the size of the original. It contains information on the image's features represented by the wavelengths of the colours that make them up.
Because the search database is also 1/30th the size of the total video and image files, the system can run on less powerful hardware and is faster, the company says. NEC says the engine is 30 times faster than any previous technology and ten times more accurate.
In addition to ongoing development at the NEC laboratories, the search engine will be part of an experimental model for thenext-generation MPEG-7 format currently being worked on by the Moving Pictures Experts Group.