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ABC’s Ingenious App Uses Sound to sync with audio

ABC’s Ingenious App Uses Sound to Sync iPad, TV

ABC’s iPad app for the television show “My Generation” creates a seamless, two-screen, interactive television experience by bridging a cable/satellite connection and an iPad, two digital devices, by measuring decidedly analog sound waves using the iPad’s microphone. The app looks for certain contours in the audio signal that the Neilsen television ratings firm uses to monitor broadcasts, so that it knows when to display a particular poll or other item linking up with a precise moment in the show.

Though television companion apps exist for the iPad, this automatic syncing feature represents a big step forward. And while ABC is only rolling this out for a single program, it’s such a clever, obvious-in-retrospect idea — not to mention far easier than writing digital code to keep the devices synced wirelessly even if the user watches at someone else’s house or later, using on-demand or a DVR — that it could easily become widespread across many shows.