Apps we'd like on Google TV
Proving once again that the company is hell bent on taking over the world, the Big G looks set to introduce Google TV along with Intel and Sony as partners. The news is that it'll be based on an Android platform with a host of web apps pulling in all sorts of content as well as having a full browser too. With this set top box declared as open, there'll also be plenty of space for third party developers to come up with some apps all of their own.
On hearing those words, a giant bulb reading "Augmenting the TV experience" lit up in our brains, we lifted the flood gates on our creative juices and this is what flowed out. So, here are our thoughts on apps we'd like to see on Google TV. Let us know your strokes of genius in the comments below.
The one that leaped out of our mouths before we'd even had a chance to breath was an ad blocker app. They can do it on a web browser, so why not on live TV? Naturally, there would have to be other ways to detect them - increase in volume, patterns of music and voice or simply looking for that small square in the corner that warns you they're coming - but it's very possible. What your TV would do once they're on is another matter. It could auto-mute, switch itself off until they're gone, play some interlude music or default to alternative channels as set by your preferences.
One of the problems of getting round to watching foreign films is the effort of reading the subtitles, so how about an app that reads them out for you? Getting a non-computerised voice with appropriate tones for each character would be tricky, but that's all in the fine tuning. Better still, you could actually assign famous voices for amusement. How about having Arnie in the title role of Amelie? It would certainly add a spin to the proceedings. If the app was really clever, though, it could analyse the tones of the person speaking and create a realistic approximation.
Whether it would take the information from actual adverts or products and clothing in the entertainment content itself is not certain, but there could be an app that uses image recognition to offer you a link of where to buy things on screen. Combine that with an Invisible Hand-type database and it'll also tell you the cheapest place to get it. Click on the link, the browser opens - or even just a small window, so as not to interrupt your film - click buy and it's on the doorstep tomorrow.
Same as Shazam on your mobile, but this time it recognises music played in film, TV and adverts, and either automatically or on request tells you not only what the track is but also offers a link to download or add to your Spotify playlist.
While we're on the subject, a Spotify app is not only most wanted but, let's face it, highly likely. No one's managed to secure an internet TV deal with the Swedish streamer as yet, but the company was happy enough to get on Android once already. No different really to Spotify anywhere except this time you can play it through your home cinema speaker set up.
Record & Upload
The content owners will hate it and we're not sure who'd have the nerve to host all the copyright material, but a simple app that allows you to record whatever you're watching and upload it to a website with a player would be quite a nice tool. It'd be a great way to video exchange content that you can't get the world over, such as certain TV series that haven't made it to and from America and the UK. If it ever gets made, 50 quid says it'll be thrown off the platform within a week.
Another one that'd be nice, but highly unlikely is a decoder app to unlock all the channels you haven't actually paid for on Sky, Virgin or whatever TV provider you use. You can already buy boxes that do just that or chip the one you already own, so a simple piece of software that overrides the lockout can't be too hard to make.
You can already access Facebook, Twitter and Skype on certain TVs but an app that knits all this together is really what you're after. It could push out status updates saying what you're watching - unless you don't want it to, of course - and also have a section telling you what your friends and contacts are enjoying as well.
Another good one on the social side would be a way of connecting with people who you don't know, perhaps if they're watching the same show as you. There could be a live chat room window or perhaps just a rolling overlay with comments flying back and forth about the action on the screen. Potentially mindless nonsense but a very good way of making a crap program infinitely more entertaining.
Remote controls are so 80s. Instead, who wouldn't want an app that would use an in-built mic to take voice commands? Stress caused by losing the remote down the back of the sofa would be an issue of the past. The only new problems would be the added dimension to arguments over what channel to watch and the increased irritation cause by people who talk through films. Ideally, you could switch voice control off and on with a word that's rarely used in the English language, say, spatulamancy.
Yes, we've all seen it in Back to the Future 2 and, to some extent, some TVs already let you do it, but a universal multi-screen display would certainly have a place. "OK, I want channels 18, 24, 63, 109, 87 and the weather channel." Then if you can make them bigger and smaller at will, as well as drag them around the display, then, that's probably a winner.
Much like the image recognition of the Shopper app, another app, most likely from Google, could access the Street View database and work out where locations used in film and TV actually are. So, when you see a beautiful stately home in a film or a view you'd love to look at with your own eyes, Google Maps pops up on the screen and plops a pin in a location for you.
This app could use face recognition software this time but much the same system as above. An IMDB window could bring up all the information you could want on all the actors on the telly box. It's a nice quick way to work out where you know people from as well as discovering how easily you can connect them to Kevin Bacon.
Of course, face recognition could work both ways. As it happens, one of the Sony TVs announced at CES 2010 already has a camera and face recognition software. In other words, it can work out who's watching it. Based on that, your TV might bring specific profiles with channel favourites, content suggestions and all your recordings.
Sling to mobile
Sling Media already offers this kind of service, so why not integrate it into a Google Box? If you're desperate to go to the loo or have to leave the house, the app can then sling whatever content is playing onto your mobile phone screen for you to enjoy on the hoof.
Finally, if we can't get an ad blocker, then how about an app that offers the fantastic Dolby Volume sounds levelling technology to all TVs rather than just those connected to expensive amplifiers? Incredibly doable and a nice way for Dolby to pick up a little direct consumer cash.
So, that's our lot but what would you like to see?