~article~ Google listens to screen routine

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From : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5084870.stm

A system that lets your computer "listen" to your television to create
targeted web adverts has been designed and tested by researchers at
The "mass personalization" system can identify a programme from as
little as five seconds of sound.

It then presents related information or adverts in the web browser.

Google researchers believe it could also be used to monitor audience
size or create social networks around viewers watching the same show.

"The system could keep up with users while they channel surf,
presenting them with a real-time forum about a live political debate
one minute and an ad-hoc chat room for a sporting event in the next,"
wrote Google researchers Michele Covell and Shumeet Baluja on the
Google research blog.

"All of this would be done without users ever having to type or to
even know the name of the program or channel being viewed," they

Although the product has been tested and shown to work in trials,
Google are keen to stress that there are still technical hurdles to
overcome and that it may never be launched.

All researchers at Google are given time to work on their own pet

Mass personalisation aims to combine television viewing with a
personalised web experience.

"Mass-media channels typically provide limited content to many
people," the researchers wrote. "The Web provides vast amounts of
information, most of interest to few."

The core of the system works in a similar way to the Shazam music
service that identifies music played into a mobile phone and then
sends the listener a text message with the name of the track.

Instead of music and mobile phones, Google's system uses a laptop or
computer to listen to the ambient sound in a room.

Each snippet of television audio has a unique pattern, like an audio
fingerprint, that can be queried against a database of television

By recording the background sound and regularly analysing five second
chunks, the system can identify the programme being watched.

It then starts to look for related information and content.

This could include personalised adverts. For example if the system
recognised that you were watching a trailer for a film, it might show
adverts for cinemas or DVD rental shops.

The researchers envisage that retailers and advertisers would bid for
television segments for their adverts in the same way as they bid for
keywords on the Google search engine at the moment.

The Google scientists believe the system could also be used to direct
other information to a television users computer.

"We could collect snippets from the web describing the actors
appearing in a movie or present maps of locales within the movie as it
takes place," they wrote.

The team says that mass personalisation could also allow viewers of
the same shows to link up with on social networking sites.

This would allow real time chat and allow fans to discuss and comment
on shows as they are broadcast.

Other applications include providing broadcasters with accurate,
real-time viewing figures or allowing viewers to create video
bookmarks of their favourite shows.

In the latter example, viewers watching on demand services would press
a button to identify a programme or particular segment as being of

The audio collected at the time the button was pressed would allow a
viewer to retrieve entire shows or clips from online movie databases.

Although the system has many potential applications ,it also has many
potential hurdles. Background sound and chatter does interfere with
the system making the retrieval of accurate information difficult.

However, the researchers believe that they can glean enough "clean"
snippets of sound, enough of the time, to make it work.

In their "in-living-room" experiments the researchers showed the
system could correctly identify the right programme every time.

But the tests used a database of just 24 hours of audio. The biggest
hurdle for a real world system could be creating the audio database

With thousands of hours of television broadcast around the world every
day, keeping track of all of the soundtracks and having the processing
power to search the massive database could be a problem.

But despite these hurdles, the researchers are confident that the
system can work and could be used on devices like mobile phones or
PDA's and for different content.

"The mass media content can originate from other sources like radio,
movies or scenarios where viewers share a location with a common
auditory background (e.g., an airport terminal, party, or music
concert)," they write.

At least you know why they haven't pulled their fingers out fixing
present problems.



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