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VideoSurf On The Android And Apple App Stores: But Isn't TV Guide Easier?

Apps such as Shazam and SoundHound are, I think, pretty intriguing. Point your handset's microphone at a speaker, fire up the software utility, and it'll do its best to identify the song that's currently playing. And from a general-purpose image recognition standpoint, I felt that the latest iteration of Google Goggles was sufficiently notable to garner EVA news showcase a week ago. So combine the two ideas, and you've got a guaranteed winner, right? Well, I'm not so sure, but I welcome reader feedback that might change my mind.

The product is VideoSurf, which BetaNews showcased mid-last month. Available for free on the Android Market and (as of a few weeks ago) on iTunes App Store, it was first publicly shown in beta form at January's Consumer Electronics Show. As BetaNews describes it (I swear I wrote the first paragraph before I saw this!), VideoSurf is a:

mobile application for iOS which lets users point their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad camera at a TV screen and the app can identify what show is currently being displayed. Something like Google Goggles and Shazam combined, the app can identify shows, episodes and actors as they appear on the screen to give viewers more information more immediately.

Considering that handset resources (memory, processing, etc) are limited, I admittedly struggle to rationalize the installation of VideoSurf solely for identifying shows. After all, those of you who still have active newspaper subscriptions know that the upcoming day's television programs are typically listed in them, often accompanied by a standalone television broadcasting directory delivered once a week. Standalone equivalents such as TV Guide are available for sale in the checkout register aisles of neighborhood grocery stores, along with offering mail-delivered subscription options. And if you have a cable, fiber or satellite TV service subscription, your set-top box typically provides a pop-up program guide that identifies what's currently being displayed.

Broaden the focus to un-published program sub-segments, such as individual music videos on MTV, however, and VideoSurf's existence starts to make more sense. Now consider that VideoSurf delivers data not only on the show itself but also on the actors present in a particular episode, and I even more clearly comprehend its relevance. After all, the iPad sitting beside my couch frequently finds use in visiting IMDB and Wikipedia to answer critical questions such as:

  • What other movies was she in?
  • How old is he? And
  • Are they (or were they ever) married in real life?

Considering that not everyone has several hundred dollars in spare change available to purchase a tablet computer of their own, a VideoSurf installation on the smartphone already owned might make sense as a surrogate...that is, if the program functions as advertised. Android Market and iTunes App Store feedback is inconclusive. For those who've tried the program, how well does it work for you? Sound off in the comments.