For several years now, television viewers have been able to skip over television commercials by using DVR’s most notoriously, TiVo. The problem with such technology of course, is that you have to record your show first then watch it after the device or service has cut out the commercials, they can’t do the same for live broadcasts. That appears about to change as a team of students at Arizona State University have created a device that can monitor television shows and detect when a switch is made to a commercial, and cut automatically to other content. They and their award winning device are being profiled on the ASU Science & Tech News site. What’s not clear is how the device might be made or sold especially in light of current litigation regarding Dish Networks Hopper DVR service and the big television networks.
The sad fact is, television networks make their money by selling airtime to advertisers. If consumers circumvent that system, using TiVo, Hopper or in the future the device developed by the ASU team, the networks won’t be able to sell ads; money they use to pay for the creation of new programming. And if that happens, will we see the end of scripted television altogether?
The students at ASU aren’t concerned about such things, their objective was to figure out how to do it, and to that end, they have succeeded. Their AdSkip device has won second prize in the Intel Cup Embedded Systems Design Contest, held earlier this month in Shanghai, China. The device is able to work its magic because of its ability to note the very subtle change in the signal that accompanies television content when a switch is made to a commercial, and vice-versa, which means the device is equally capable of switching back to your program when the commercials are over. Hardware for the device came from Intel of course, which holds such competitions to spur development of new ideas for its hardware, in hopes that they will be used in more devices. For the competition, students are given the chips and three months to come up with something special. In this case, it was a way to skip annoying television commercials by detecting changes to both the audio and video signals that occur when a television feed is switched from one source to another, and then eventually back again.
Whether the team will be able to patent, manufacture and sell the AdSkip is still not known. If they try, they might just find themselves enmeshed in a lawsuit by corporations with very deep pockets.