Whether it's trying to piece together what happened in the latest episode of Fringe, sharing your surprise over the latest Dexter plot twist, or debating the finer points of an interview on 60 Minutes, people like to interact around the things they watch on television. The only problem is, it can be imprecise. We can check into a series on Miso or GetGlue, but not a specific episode. But what if we could identify the exact piece of content - even a live, breaking news broadcast - at the moment it's broadcast?
Palo Alto-based IntoNow announced today a video and live television identification technology called SoundPrint that it hopes will serve as the GPS for Internet-TV integrations. It also released an iOS app, called IntoNow, that uses SoundPrint to demonstrate what this sort of real-time identification makes possible.
"Television has always been a source of social engagement, and yet there's never been an easy way for people to create connections with their friends around the shows they are into," said Adam Cahan, founder and CEO of IntoNow.
When we got a demonstration of the IntoNow app and SoundPrint technology the other day, Cahan compared the state of Internet TV with the early days of location-based services. In order to "check in", users had to name the location themselves, meaning there was no uniformity to base interaction on. The same, he said, goes with TV apps today, but IntoNow wants to change all that.
To "check in" to the show you're watching using IntoNow, there's no typing or choosing a name from a list. All you need to do is hold your iPhone or iPad up, tap a button, and it compares the sound from the video you're watching to the more than 140 million minutes of indexed content on the company's servers. Seconds later, it tells you not only what show you're watching, but the exact episode, too. From there, you can instantly begin interacting with friends around that content, either in the app itself, or by using Facebook and Twitter. The app even has Internet Movie Database integration, so you can quickly get the full scoop on a movie, as well as Netflix integration, so you can add things to your streaming queue to watch later.
The GPS of Internet TV
By relying on the audio to identify content, it makes the technology device agnostic and puts the content at the center of the interaction. Whether you're watching a LOST rerun on TV or your watching an episode on Netflix, SoundPrint and the IntoNow app will base your interaction around that specific episode, and not simply the entire season or series.
For example, if a friend remarks that a particular episode of a show is not to be missed, the app can tell you when that episode airs again, in real-time, where you are.
While IntoNow adds all the basic layers of interaction around content, (and we definitely recommend that you download it and give it a shot) what it really does is show off how SoundPrint can function as a GPS of Internet TV.
The Platform Potential
Yahoo recently demonstrated its latest play in Internet TV and we were duly impressed, writing that "Yahoo TV Is a Paradigm Shift for Internet TV." The system allows broadcasters to display content on the screen for user interaction based upon what is currently playing. With Yahoo, however, the interactive content comes from the broadcaster only. It's a closed platform that's available only to paying, content-owning players.
SoundPrint, on the other hand, could put this power directly into the hands of the innovators - developers. It could give them the ability to create interaction around very specific content on a variety of devices. One of the big downfalls for Google TV is that it can only identify content from one provider, DISH Network. What if, instead, it could identify content in this way - by the audio stream?
This is IntoNow's real play - as a platform for interactive television. Currently, SoundPrint monitors 130 broadcast channels in real time and the system has cataloged five years of backlog, adding up to 140 million minutes of broadcast TV. It allows for real-time content identification, meaning if you're watching breaking news, it can tell and make that identification to the developer. The Yahoo Connected TV technology, as far as it was explained, sounded very similar but it had one huge distinction - it would not be made available to the developers.