ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer on Jun 9, 2013, at 2:03 AM Updated on 6/09/13 at 7:33 AM
In a small office in downtown Tulsa, Moomat is building a different search that goes beyond inserting text into a search bar.Moomat’s new search technology sifts through databases and automatically finds relationships between points of data, such as suggesting that a person who is looking for President Lincoln might also be interested in learning about his Confederate counterpart Jefferson Davis, or automatically showing how many degrees a specific actor is separated from Kevin Bacon.
The company’s goal is to license its technology for use in public and private databases worldwide, but it has now signed on a big-namepartner – Spotify, the popular music streaming and discovery service.
Moomat announced the Spotify service will be fully integrated into CultureScout, Moomat’s iPad application that explores the relationships between music, movies and art.
When a user finds songs that have connections with other items that are searched for, the Spotify integration will allow users to play the entire song without having to leave the app.
Daniel Mooney, CEO and co-founder of Moomat, said they’ve been told Culture-Scout is one of the first apps to be integrated with the full version of Spotify, rather than just having the capability of searching Spotify’s database.
“We want to give people new and interesting ways to discover and enjoy great music,” Mooney said. “We’re thrilled to have worked with Spotify to help us make that a reality.”
Moomat’s Spotify deal came about when the two companies met during the interactive portion of this year’s South By Southwest festival in Austin, said Moomat co-founder Shaun Edwardes.
Ronald Pompa, Spotify’s product owner for software partner platforms, said in a release the company helped create a valuable new addition for the app.
“Our team worked with Moomat to ensure an amazing music experience for CultureScout users,” he said.
Though the app was quietly launched two months ago, Moomat plans a bigger marketing push now that the Spotify partnership is public.
New way to discover
The idea for CultureScout hit Mooney while he was listening to records by Townes Van Zandt, a blues-folk-country artist. Because Mooney is more likely to listen to extreme metal than blues, he started wondering how he originally got into Van Zandt.
Eventually, it hit him.
Years ago, Mooney went to Kansas to see the band Brutal Truth. Another band, Acid Bath, opened for them, and the lead singer performed a cover of a Van Zandt song.
“It doesn’t seem obvious, but when you explore, you see relationships between extreme metal and a guy who plays folk country,” Mooney said.
Because Van Zandt could be connected with Brutal Truth, there was the potential for all kinds of hidden but useful connections that couldn’t be teased out of recommendation engines used on sites like Netflix and Pandora, he said.
Mooney had a background in tech working in places like Pandemic Studios, the now-defunct Los Angeles game development company, but he didn’t have any music connections.
But Edwardes, who is also Mooney’s brother-in-law, did. He had been working with music distribution in Bahrain and was already interested in the problem of music discovery.
“The dilemma in this digital age is that there’s so much music,” he said. “It’s not as simple as walking into a record store and seeing the new releases.”
The two decided to devote their careers to creating a new way to discover music, but development requires funding. Eventually Tulsa-based venture capital company Mimosa Tree Capital Partners agreed to back Moomat.
Vince LoVoi, managing partner of Mimosa Tree, felt Mooney and Edwardes had an industry-changing idea, as well as the talent to pull it off.
“We think we’re entering the next phase of the Internet boom,” LoVoi said. “We need to make sense of all the information we’re gathering.”
But the investment came with a catch – Mooney had to move from Los Angeles back to his native Tulsa, LoVoi said. Mimosa Tree has made it a point to back many Tulsa companies including Avansic Inc., Saltus Technologies and The McNellie’s Group, and wanted to add one more.
“We believe there’s an untapped mine of tech talent in Tulsa,” LoVoi said. “We have the opportunity to be one of the most important parts of the Silicon Prairie.”
CultureScout finds results through a database of more than 300 million data points, connecting more than 40 million songs, two million bands, 2.5 million books, 200,000 films, 1 million television episodes, 40,000 record labels, 53,000 architectural structures, 16,000 pieces of art and 20,000 video games.
Some of the data is curated by Moomat, while some are from outside sources like Wikipedia or Apple’s music database, Edwardes said. However, it’s not always as simple as just getting names and titles.
“Connecting data can be tricky,” he said. “David Bowie could refer to the singer, or it could refer to a local person that got arrested.”
The company’s search technology depends on semantic relationships. Technology may look to see whether the David Bowie information contains references to his music or acting.
Moomat can find relationships within other types of databases through its DeepDiver Web technology. The Oklahoma Policy Institute uses DeepDiver for its online articles, said Jean Perry, a policy analyst with OPI.
An article on influenza loads up a list of categories and topics associated with the article, and clicking on individual topics pulls up a number of similar articles.
“It does something similar to tagging articles, but it automates the process,” Perry said. “It’s able to find connections we couldn’t even think of, such as bringing up articles we’ve written long ago.”
Edwardes said DeepDiver and related technologies have the potential to make searching through databases more convenient, even with older articles without tags.
The company is currently in negotiations with several national media groups to license their search technology, Edwardes said.
“We’re able to bring older videos and articles back to life,” he said.
How CultureScout works
Moomat’s technology automatically finds links between different points of data, allowing users to quickly find related data. Here’s an example within CultureScout of where these links can lead. — BY ROBERT EVATT, WORLD STAFF WRITER
1. CultureScout begins by letting you search through a number of different types of works, such as music, art, books, movies and TV. You can type in a specific term or sift through a curated selection of works.
2. Each item gives you a number of different categories showing related people, places or works. The entry for The Beatles has 27 different categories, including songs, albums, members, influences, people influenced, articles written about, artists they performed with and more.
3. Apple Records shows up under the labels The Beatles recorded for. In addition to showing all the artists that recorded for Apple, CultureScout also shows the painting that influenced the logo.
4. Le Jeu De Mourre, the influence for the Apple Records logo, was painted by Rene Magritte.
5. Rene Magritte was a member of the surrealism school of art.
6. Surrealism lists more than 100 artists known to have painted within that art movement. With just a few steps, we’ve gone from a popular musical band to a type of visual art.