Remember “Epic”?

by Yule Heibel on September 2, 2006

Some years ago, Dean Landsman sent an email to Entropy Gradient Reversal subscribers (a list I was actually deleted from a while back — I’ll have you know this takes some doing…), the gist of which had been to point us to an amazing flash movie called Epic 2014 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson, with music by Aaron McLeran. (If you are one of the terminally unhip people who haven’t seen this masterpiece, hie thee to the above link and click on through to watch the movie!) (Note: there’s an updated Epic 2015 version available on the above page, too.)

Well, as I said, a couple of years have gone by the by since then, but in the past week, several MIT Technology Review articles refocussed the “googlezon” vision in real time. Consider, for example, this story, Googling Your TV (published 8/24/06):

Google probably already knows what search terms you use, what Web pages you’re viewing, and what you write about in your e-mail — after all, that’s how it serves up the text ads targeted to the Web content on your screen.

Pretty soon, Google may also know what TV programs you watch — and could use that information to send you more advertising, leavened with information pertinent to a show.

A system recently outlined by researchers at Google amounts to personalized TV without the fancy set-top equipment required by previous (and failed) attempts at interactive television. Their prototype software, detailed in a conference presentation in Europe last June, uses a computer’s built-in microphone to listen to the sounds in a room. It then filters each five-second snippet of sound to pick out audio from a TV, reduces the snippet to a digital “fingerprint,” searches an Internet server for a matching fingerprint from a pre-recorded show, and, if it finds a match, displays ads, chat rooms, or other information related to that snippet on the user’s computer.

Next we learn that google is partnering with eBay to “crack the services market,” as this article, Need a nanny? Local plumber? Google, eBay try to crack services market with new deal elaborates. What is so bizzare is that the involvement of giants such as google and eBay might actually “help” locally owned small businesses, which begs the question, What’s not to like? And that, dear friends, was exactly the sly point of Epic 2014‘s allusive Orwellianism…

The deal could make it easier for local merchants to compete against ”category killers” such as Home Depot Inc., Lowe’s Cos. and other dominant retailers. Eventually, eBay users could rank local merchants as part of its popular feedback system.

”It may turn out that the small companies are more responsive than the big companies. They get great reviews and rise to the top,” said Roger L. Kay, president of research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. ”For consumers and merchants, it’s unmitigated good.”

Well, you just have to watch Epic 2014 to get a real and all-encompassing sense of what this sort of unreal yet all-encompassing technology could mean.

Meanwhile, “Kill your TV” takes on a whole added meaning…


Daryl Cobranchi September 2, 2006 at 6:22 am

Their prototype software, detailed in a conference presentation in Europe last June, uses a computer’s built-in microphone to listen to the sounds in a room.

Most computers don’t have built-in microphones. Google’s plan to take over the world will have to wait until we’ve replaced all desktops with laptops.

Rob Randall September 3, 2006 at 12:04 pm

My three year old iMac desktop has a built in mic which I had forgotten about until I opened up a movie editing program and saw the trembling colour bars of a recording meter taking in the ambient room sounds. Damn thing had been listening to the goings on in my studio apartment for years…

In other searching news I was browsing the recently released AOL user search logs and discovered everything AOL users search for can be categorized as either “sad”, “frightening” or “pathetic”.

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