Friday, June 09, 2006

Google Listens in to Help You...What?

This is just strange and maybe scary.

From TechCrunch:

"A team from Google Research has developed a prototype system that uses a home computer’s internal microphone to listen to the ambient audio in a room, determine what is being watched on TV and offer web-based supplemental information, services and shopping contextual to each program being watched. It’s strange, but it sounds like it works and people might really like it.

Google Research team members Michele Covell and Shumeet Baluja along with Michael Fink of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Center for Neural Computation were given the best paper award for their report on the system at the the Euro ITV (interactive television) conference last week. (“Social- and Interactive-Television Applications Based on Real-Time Ambient-Audio Identification” 10 pg PDF, see also the Google Research blog post on the paper.)

The system compresses the captured audio into irreversible (emphasis theirs) summary statistics which are then compared to a database of mass media statistics and used to determine what the browser should display. Possible service offerings discussed in the paper fall into four categories:

  • Personalized information layers Here’s what Tom Cruise is wearing in the show you are watching and here’s where you can buy the same clothes in your zip code.
  • Ad hoc social peer communities If you would like to chat about this show, ten of your college friends are watching it right now as well.
  • Real-time popularity ratings Nielsen requires hardware and the results aren’t available in real-time. You might want to know if there is a spike in viewers watching the show on channel 9 right now. Advertisers might want to know that too.
  • TV- based bookmarks Click to save a show or clip into your video library and there will be more than just a few shows available for watching later."

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