[PLUG-TALK] internet app - commercial times

Keith Lofstrom keithl at kl-ic.com
Fri Mar 25 23:36:14 PDT 2011

Half baked idea, free for the taking if someone can figure
out how to make a buck with it:

I don't like television.  I especially don't like commercials.
I don't like the unhealthy overconsumption those commercials
encourage.  Others may like broadcast television, but not
commercials.  I know those commercials are paying for the
broadcasts, but they are also paying for crap like the DMCA. 
Hollywood still has too much money.  Imagine an internet-
connected and video-connected switch box which can replace
commercials with queued-up short youtubes, or home
security cameras, or brief exercise videos, or whatever.

Imagine a server that broadcast packets over the internet to
all these boxes, signalling the start and end of commercials
for all the channels.  The box in each house could match
channel and packet, and decide when to switch over to
alternate content based on individual user preferences.

Of course, the broadcasters won't provide the signalling
packets.  The commercial detector server will depend on some
combination of computerized pattern matching, and live humans
watching the various channels and punching keyboard keys at
appropriate times.  To keep the latency down, those humans
may need to be local both geographically and ISP-wise.

Since there are plenty of people watching TV for free, there
are probably many individuals who will do this for cheap. 
Some fraction of them will be fast and accurate.  Some may
even be able to accurately anticipate the commercials before
the content actually ends, or guess how long they will last. 
The accuracy can measured in software; the service can give
prizes to the best human detectors, and weight their 
responses higher than the other humans feeding the same
channel information.

Heck, there may be users happy to receive commercials if
they are relevant - the local box may overlay the broadcast
commercials with individually targeted ones.  An alternate
version of me would watch ads for books, organic groceries,
and tools.

The broadcasters and content providers will have hissy fits,
of course.  Perhaps they will bribe legislators to make the
video switch boxes illegal.  Fine, use IR remote signals to
switch the TV to a blank channel.  Then turn on something
else, maybe music or meditation sounds while the viewer rests
their eyes.  Or connect viewers to other viewers with audio
chat.  A commercial break can be used for many things.

Before the demand is high enough to build video switch
boxes, the server and net app can facilitate the alternate
activity uses, and be a pure software play.  Perhaps there
are some unemployed programmers reading this with enough
time to hack something up.  The television's remote control
IR port can be driven by a laptop IR port, or some Arduino
kludge.  I know Mitch Altman, who sells the TV-B-Gone,
and I bet he would love to sell an IR dongle for this.

We all know people who watch too much TV.  We can put them
to productive use.  My relative watches too much Fox News. 
She and ten others could provide data for the other hundred
Fox viewers in this not-right-wing region.  If she is
observing carefully enough to accurately detect the
commercials, her brain might be more active and able
to resist them, perhaps the content as well.

Not being a television watcher, I am probably missing a
lot here.  Content encryption schemes may make this hard
to do.  But it might be simpler than I expect.  It would
be nice to recover a little bit of the two trillion hours
wasted on television each year, and save a few of my
neighbors from consuming the crap that TV advertises.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993
KLIC --- Keith Lofstrom Integrated Circuits --- "Your Ideas in Silicon"
Design Contracting in Bipolar and CMOS - Analog, Digital, and Scan ICs

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