Bergy’s Apps of the Week: Pocket Blu & FoxPop


NBC Universal and 20th Century Fox have launched interactive apps that tap into DVD or Blu-ray discs to augment viewing. The apps provide information about the film and stars and connect you with friends to chat about the movie while you watch.

Fox’s FoxPop uses the microphone on your iPhone, or your laptop, to “hear” the audio signal from the movie you’re watching, then responds with pop-ups about the movie. It also intersects with Facebook and Twitter for movie chats.

Universal’s Pocket Blu is just for the iPhone. It turns the device into a remote control for the movie if you watch on a Blu-ray player (it doesn’t work with traditional DVDs or computers) and plays trailers for upcoming movies.

Both apps are on selected movies at first, such as Fox’s Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and 500 Days of Summer, and Universal’s Funny People and Brüno.

With FoxPop, once you sync the DVD and the iPhone or computer with the app, “We know where you are in the movie,” says Ajay Shah, CEO of start-up Spot411, which created the technology for Fox. “You can actually leave a message for a friend who might watch the movie in the future.”

So instead of tapping him or her on the shoulder in the theater and saying, “Catch this, here’s the funny part,” you can do that with text on the iPhone or computer, Shah says.

You might find that annoying in the theater, but online, it’s a silent tap, he says. “You can either take part or not.”

Creative packaging

Older viewers might scoff at the idea of adding these apps to DVD and Blu-ray, but for the iPhone generation it makes a lot of sense, says Tom Adams, president of consulting firm Adams Media Research.

“Apps like this make the DVD part of the networked experience that’s becoming a way of life,” he says. “It puts packaged media and networked connectivity together in creative ways.”

DVD sales have declined as more consumers shifted to lower-priced rentals, Adams says. Rentals are up 1%, he says.

Mary Daily, executive vice president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, says the initial idea was to use the technology for Museum, to offer more information about the exhibits used in the film.

But she liked the results so much she’s decided to use it for more films. For the December DVD/Blu-ray release of 500 Days of Summer, the app focuses on music that inspired the bittersweet love story and back story about the songs, while Jennifer’s Body tells you more about the red-hot star Megan Fox.

“Our end game is to keep developing and growing the app, so we can have even more functionality as time goes by,” she says.

She can envision e-commerce possibilities: Click here and buy a sweater like Ben Stiller’s.

Shah says his inspiration for the software came from watching TV. During the 2008 election, newscasters would reference things he needed to look up, and he kept his laptop nearby at all times. “When I dug into the data, I realized that about one-third of all Internet home use occurred while watching TV,” he says. “If there could be a way to combine those two experiences, that would be fantastic. I wanted to do something that didn’t require any additional hardware.”

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So he set his engineers to work. Audio recognition had already been pioneered with the iPhone on multiple popular apps that use audio signals to identify songs. Shah took that basic concept, and adapted it for video.

What you won’t see, Shah vows, is this technology working in movie theaters. “I hate glowing screens from cellphones when I’m watching movies,” he says. “This is about enhancing the home entertainment experience. It’s not for theaters.”

But like it or not, fidgeting during at-home movie watching is here to stay.

“It’s the Google effect,” he says. “The moment you feel like you have the right to information, you expect to have it. Once we can find out about the actor and what else he’s been in, and ask other people what they think of a scene and get an answer, we expect to have it always. You may not always use it, but it will be there when you want it.”

Watching a movie at home with an iPhone in your hand means your focus isn’t on the screen the whole time, but director Shawn Levy, who made both Night at the Museum movies, is OK with that.

“Beyond the theatrical run of the movie, no one’s ever watching your movie in the scale or format you intended,” Levy says. “The purist in me wants everyone to concentrate on the film, but for the increasingly hyperactive population, this makes for interesting interactive viewing.”

Source = USA Today


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