I remember being blown away the first time I tried Shazam. In case you aren’t familiar with this app (available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile), it can recognise a song by recording a short sample and comparing it to an online database of around eight million tracks – a process that takes around five seconds altogether.
This used to be my go-to app whenever I wanted to show off the power of smartphone to friends, and, provided it worked (it’s not so good for obscure tracks or indie artists), it never failed to elicit a round of admiring “‘wow”s and “that’s so cools".
Of course, the ever-evolving world of smartphone apps has moved on since then, and the list of amazing ‘impress your friends’ apps has grown to include augmented reality apps like Layar (which transposes information about the scene in front of you using the smartphone’s camera, GPS, and a variety of data sources), image recognition apps like Google Goggles and Word Lens, voice recognition apps like Dragon Dictation that you can use for controlling your phone and dictating email and text messages, and on-the-fly translation tools like Google Translate.
Recently, I was blown away yet again by a new free app called IntoNow, which is billed as ‘the Shazam for TV shows’. Like Shazam, it works off a unique sound signature for each TV show, which it compares to the company’s proprietary SoundPrint database of over 140 million minutes of broadcast TV – the equivalent of over 266 years of content. Apparently, SoundPrint also recognises live TV airings, as it indexes 130 channels in real-time.
IntoNow: has a database of 140 million minutes of broadcast TV
IntoNow is based in the United States, so it’s naturally biased towards American TV shows, but I was nevertheless impressed by how accurate it was. It recognised 8 out of 10 TV shows that I asked it to recognise, including The Simpsons, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Stargate SG-1 and Teen Mom, naming not just the show, but also the season and episode numbers and a brief synopsis of that episode.
It doesn’t have the same utility as Shazam, as there simply aren’t as many situations where you’re wondering what TV show is currently playing. But IntoNow emphasises the social aspects of the service rather than just relying on the recognition system, letting you post what you’re currently watching to your Facebook and Twitter streams – the show identification engine is just the icing on the cake.
Services like Shazam and IntoNow – and even Google Translate and Dragon Dictation – rely on remote servers to do all the number crunching for you, placing minimal demand on your smartphone’s processor.
With the next generation of smartphones due in the next few months that establish dual-core processors as the new gold standard, however, who knows what sort of apps we’ll be seeing in the future? I’m looking forward to being blown away yet again.