Automatic content recognition
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Automatic content recognition (ACR) is a technology used to identify content played on a media device or presented within a media file. Devices with ACR can allow for the collection of content consumption information automatically at the screen level itself, without any user-based input or search efforts. This information may be collected for purposes such as personalized advertising, content recommendations, sale to customer data aggregators and other applications.
How it works
To start the recognition, a short media clip (audio, video, or both) is selected from within a media file or captured as displayed on a device such as a smart TV. Using techniques such as fingerprinting and watermarking, the selected content is compared by the ACR software with a database of known recorded works. If the fingerprint of the media clip finds a match, the ACR software returns the corresponding metadata regarding the media as well as other associated or recommended content back to the client application for display to the user, or for collection by the device manufacturer or a data aggregator.
Fingerprints and watermarking
Two leading methodologies for audio-based ACR are acoustic fingerprinting and watermarking. Similarly, video fingerprinting is used to facilitate ACR for visual media.
Acoustic fingerprinting generates unique fingerprints from the audio content itself. Fingerprinting techniques are agnostic to content format, codec, bit rate and compression techniques. This makes employment of acoustic fingerprinting possible across various networks and channels[clarification needed] and is widely used for interactive TV, second screen application, and content monitoring sectors. Popular apps like Shazam, YouTube, Facebook, Thetake, WeChat and Weibo reportedly use audio fingerprinting methodology to recognize content played from a TV to trigger additional features like votes, lotteries, topics or purchases.
In contrast to fingerprinting, digital watermarking require the inclusion of digital "tags"[further explanation needed] embedded within the digital content stream prior to distribution. For example, a broadcast encoder might insert a watermark every few seconds that could be used to identify the broadcast channel, program ID, and time stamp. This watermark is normally inaudible or invisible to the users, but is detectable by display devices like phones or tablets which can read the watermarks to identify the content it is playing. Watermarking technology is also utilized in the media protection field to help identify where illegal copies originate.
In 2011, ACR technology was applied to TV content by the Shazam service, which captured the attention of the television industry. Shazam was previously a music recognition service which recognized music from sound recordings. By utilizing its own fingerprint technology to identify live channels and videos, Shazam extended their business to television programming. Also in 2011, Samba TV (at the time known as Flingo) introduced its patented video ACR technology, which uses video fingerprinting to identify on-screen content and power cross-screen interactive TV apps on Smart TVs. In 2012, satellite communications provider DIRECTV partnered with TV loyalty vendor Viggle to provide an interactive viewing experience on the second screen. In 2013, LG partnered with Cognitive Networks (later purchased by Vizio and renamed Inscape), an ACR vendor, to provide ACR driven interaction. In 2015, ACR technology spread to even more applications and smart TVs. Social applications and TV manufacturers like Facebook, Twitter, Google, WeChat, Weibo, LG, Samsung, and Vizio TV have used ACR technology either developed by themselves or integrated from third party ACR providers. In 2016, additional applications and mobile OS embedded with automatic content recognition services were available including Peach, Omusic and Mi OS.
Advertising and customer data collection
Data collected on the media consumption habits of customers is very valuable to device manufacturers, advertisers, and data aggregation companies. ACR technology helps these companies surveil the interests of customers and collect data so that they can be more precisely targeted with personalized marketing and advertising campaigns. It was reported in Nov 2021 that smart television manufacturer Vizio is more profitable from the sale of their customers' data than from the televisions they sold.
Real-time audience measurement metrics are now achievable by applying ACR technology into smart TVs, set top boxes and mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. This measurement data is essential to quantify audience consumption to set advertising pricing policies.
ACR technology helps audiences retrieve information about the content they watched or listened to. The identified video and music content can be linked to internet content providers for on-demand viewing, third parties for additional background information, or complementary media.
Because devices can be "aware" of content being watched or listened to, second screen devices can feed users complementary content beyond what is presented on the primary viewing screen. ACR technology can not only identify the content, but also it can identify the precise location within the content and present additional information to users. ACR can also enable a variety of interactive features such as polls, coupons, lottery or purchase of goods based on timestamp.
Organizations ranging from consumer rights advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation to tech web sites such as PCMag have expressed serious objections to the collection of user viewing consumption habits by their devices on privacy grounds. That being said, most devices' settings offer the option to disable this feature.
ACR service providers include Beatgrid, ACRCloud, Red Bee Media, Digimarc, Gracenote, Kantar Media, Inscape Data Services, Zapr Media Labs, Shazam and Samba TV.
- Content similarity detection
- Document classification
- Object recognition
- Music information retrieval
- Search by sound
- Video content analysis
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