Interactive television on your computer, just a Snapshot away
The line between television and Internet is being further blurred by a recently completed project called TV Snapshot co-funded by the European Space Agency.
TV Snapshot from the Luxembourg company GAX is aimed at the increasing number of viewers watching television on their personal computers via satellite, especially those wanting an enriched interactivity experience. The software does this by giving digital television broadcasters the ability to add interactive features to their programmes.
With a simple tap on the computer keyboard, viewers can store data from an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) distributed freely by Digital TV broadcasters. TV Snapshot takes this information and stores it on a database. The software will then initiate a search on an Internet browser such as Google or to Internet retailers such as Amazon and the viewer is treated to detailed programme information or online purchase offers.
A viewer watching a music video channel, for example, might be directed to a page where the compact disc can be purchased, or even to a time schedule when the video clip will be played again, or depending on data in the EPG to concert information.
The only limit on the TV Snapshot software is the amount of EPG content provided by broadcasters. Currently 31 compliant channels via the satellite Astra 19.2° E are being used, but the future potential for such a software solution is significant. As of 2004 in Europe, 3 million users have the necessary hardware to use TV Snapshot, but that figure is growing.
Alex Kampa of GAX S.A says, "Interactive is already here; but currently full interactivity is only possible with expensive equipment. By adding data to the TV stream and interpreting it directly on a PC, TV Snapshot is going to be a low-cost solution."
The targeted demographic group has some other advantages to make the software more attractive to potential broadcasters. "Typically the 18-35 group takes up this technology quickly and they have a lot of disposable income", explains Kampa. "I also see this as an opportunity for broadcasters to add additional services to appeal to the viewers."
The software can be configured to any DVB broadcaster requirements and may be especially attractive to those with underused bandwidth. "Try envisaging applications from online voting to reading player statistics during a football match or even background information while watching a nature program", adds Kampa. "It's a novel approach that completes the loop between broadcaster and viewer."
Recent beta-testing was conducted with users downloading the software from the TV Snapshot website. The GAX team are planning further enhancements to the software, including testing compatibility with the 61 Digital TV Stations broadcast by ASTRA for the British Isles, and expanding the EPG data transmitted with a potential broadcast partner(s).