Gracenote second-screen tablet app tracks TV for extra info

Gracenote is readying a "second screen" platform that would use digital audio fingerprinting to show related information to TV shows on an iPad or other tablet. The new system listens in to TV shows or movies with the tablet's microphone, comparing snippets of audio with its database of content to identify not only the show but whereabouts in its timeline it is. That process takes around five seconds at most, GigaOm reports, after which point the app can show contextually-relevant information on the tablet's display.

Digital watermarking shows isn't a new concept, and indeed a Gracenote subsidiary is behind the technology ABC uses with select content to match apps up with what's happening on-screen. However, those shows require ABC to insert the digital fingerprint itself at the point of broadcast, whereas Gracenote's new system is network-agnostic. It relies on a database of known shows to use basic audio to identify them, similar to existing song ID apps that can report track and artist details for music playing on the radio.

The downside is that Gracenote needs to have a record of the content in its database if a match is to be found. "Hundreds" of movies will be supported when the system launches properly in March 2012, growing to eventually encompass "tens of thousands" with scene-by-scene information, links to related content and even the option to buy the DVD or other products.

As for live TV, that's an even trickier matter, though the initial release will use a mixture of TV guide information and other cues to figure out what's playing at any one time. The advantage of it being offered as a distinct and separate option from the broadcaster is greater flexibility in what content can be shown: adverts and competing shows from a broad variety of providers, for instance, rather than solely from a single network.