Many people rely on their smart phones to search for things online. At the movies, users might try to identify an actor from a film trailer. At a concert, they might hear a song and check which album it was on. When shopping, they might try to find the best deal on a product by searching nearby stores. Apps that identify songs, images, and video, or that read barcodes, make it easier to do this.
Now Digimarc, based in Beaverton, Oregon, has combined these functions into Discover, a single app designed to identify input from a person’s environment and pull up related information.
Similar to apps like Shazam, SoundHound, or Barcode Scanner, Discover uses a smart phone’s camera and microphone to “capture” a sample of audio or an image, then identifies it through Digimarc’s own database and searches for related material online.
Unlike these apps, though, Discover combines a variety of media search functions into a single app that will allow users to scan images, audio, video, and even barcodes or QR codes (two-dimensional versions of barcodes)—all without switching between apps. Discover is available for free on both iOS and Android phones.
However, Discover’s usefulness is limited by the number of companies that utilize the system. As of yet, this system is only implemented by a small number of publications.
Discover requires “digital watermarks” to identify images and video. These work much like the watermarking used on currency or official documents, by inserting a transparent image on top of another image. The difference is that digital watermarking is specifically designed to be recorded and decoded by software.
Digimarc offers an online service that advertisers and companies can use to purchase and place watermarks in their ads and images. Then, when a user scans one of those images with a watermark, the Discover app searches through Digimarc’s database. Once the app has identified an item through the database, it searches online and brings up related information on the user’s phone.
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.