The Orange TVcheck app has landed in the UK, with the aim of making the "second screen" (that's your phone) an interactive TV partner.
After a successful launch of the app in France in September 2011, the TVcheck app will automatically detect which programme you are watching on the goggle box and offer you a range of associated features.
The aim is to make your phone a social companion for the programme you're watching. Of course, through the likes of Facebook and Twitter, it already is, but TVcheck aims to cultivate these social networks specifically for the programme you are watching.
The automatic recognition is clever, because you simply press the "Check-in!" button, point the phone camera at your TV and it will identify your programme. Of course, it's pretty simple, because the TVcheck service knows the schedules for 25 major UK free-to-air channels.
Once checked-in, the content of the app can be tailored for the programme you are watching. That means, for example, you can view associated tweets and share your own thoughts and reactions to the programme.
You'll also be able to use the app to see what is showing on TV and which programmes are the most popular, so you can dive in and see what all the fuss is about.
Where TVcheck is looking to bring something unique is in its challenges, quizzes and badges. To prove you're the biggest fan of a show, you'll be able to compete for "top dog" status, earning points by checking-in to watch a show, for example.
The challenges and quizzes aren't all dumb either. In some cases it will be editorially controlled (ie, by real human beings) so unique content can be supplied in reaction to events in a programme, including live shows.
As an added incentive to get involved, there will be a crossover into the real world. Orange today told us in a private demo of the new service that prizes such as tickets to a show or the chance to meet the director were being considered.
Currently the app will identify only programmes running on the broadcast schedule, so content on your PVR won't be recognised. However, Orange is in the process of negotiating various deals with some high-profile shows, which will enable anytime recognition of what your watching, as well as other benefits.
The downside to this programme-related refinement of your social networks is that you may well miss something else exciting happening on another channel... how would you know about that problem back passage on Embarrassing Bodies if you're only getting tweets about Robson's Extreme Fishing Challenge?
The Orange TVcheck app launches initially on the iPhone, with plans to roll out an Android version in July. It is network agnostic, so although it was developed by Orange, it's open to everyone.