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June 18, 2012
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How real-time sync means you can skip a violent movie scene

Civolution has been demonstrating some of the potential new services that become available when using real-time content recognition on Smart TVs. At ANGA Cable last week the company was demonstrating its SyncNow – Smart TV product, which uses a software client in the connected device to understand what the viewer is watching at any given moment, so that complementary services can be layered on top. Most notable is the ability to adjust parental guidance while a movie is playing so that the scenes in that content are edited on-the-fly to match the selected age restriction.

In the Cologne demonstration, the company showed a scene from Harry Potter where Harry has a dagger held to his throat. An age restriction (e.g. 13 or PG – Parental Guidance) was then applied and the content shown again. This time, an understanding of which point in the movie the viewer has reached, combined with metadata about the movie scenes, meant the movie skipped the offending scene, in what amounts to real-time, self-editing for VOD.

Pim Hertogs, Product Manager at Civolution, noted that there are companies that also sell subtitling online. If you want a specific language and that language option is not supported on a movie, you can source the subtitles from the Internet and these are then overlaid on the video stream. Once again, the content recognition client (audio recognition in this case) in the device means the television is no longer a ‘dumb’ display simply playing out the content as it is received. Instead, the television can synchronise the subtitles to the scenes the viewer is watching.

The demonstration also showed how ‘companion’ experiences can be provided alongside content, except on the television screen itself. If you are watching a news bulletin talking about a volcano, the main feed can be reduced to a quarter-screen picture-in-picture and keywords from the story, such as ‘lava’, are displayed elsewhere on the television display. These keywords can be analysed from closed captions or subtitles. The television can also seek out relevant apps or websites where keywords are used regularly, and display these underneath the news feed.

Civolution was also demonstrating how real-time synchronisation can be applied to the second screen. If a broadcaster is showing sports, a broadcaster app on a tablet could display relevant statistics, for example. Interestingly, when the advertisement on the main television plays, the second screen starts to play the same advert as a picture-in-picture, alongside the statistics. Consumers can then pause or replay the second screen advertisement.

Broadcasters will control what happens inside their app. But as Hertogs points out, consumers may not want to deal with multiple broadcaster apps on their tablet so there could be a role for a Pay TV operator that offers an umbrella app (which includes the Electronic Programme Guide) within which you find the broadcaster experiences. So this would be like apps launching within an app.

In its ANGA demonstrations, Civolution showed examples of what a broadcaster second screen app can look like as a standalone experience outside of any operator EPG. The company showed in more detail what can be achieved with the keywords generated using closed captions or subtitles. These can be used to prompt commercial interactions. For example, a news story talking about Ohio could link to a travel website marketing hotels in Ohio. When the channel changed on the main TV, the companion quickly switched over to another broadcaster app to accompany the different channel.

Using a content recognition software client, a tablet will understand what programme a viewer is watching but this can also be applied to advertising. Civolution can create fingerprints of advertising so the client software can then interrogate the advertising fingerprint database and confirm what advertisement is being watched. What happens next is determined by the channel owner who sold the advertisement for the main TV. So they choose if the same or a different advert is streamed to the tablet, for example, and what happens if someone then clicks on that ad.

Because the client interrogates the advertising database, the broadcaster also knows how many people have been watching the advertisement. “They get real-time monitoring of the viewing on the second screen, and if a lot of people dropped out of the second screen app for some reason, they would know that. The information would not identify people individually but would provide anonymous, aggregated data,” Hertogs explains.

Civolution also used ANGA to highlight its new server-side content identification and triggering service: ‘SyncNow – Smart Services’. You can read more about that here.