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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
From goggle box to chatterbox

By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

Soon your TV could be talking to your PC and telling it which webpages to load.

A US company has produced a gadget that reacts to audio signals embedded in TV programmes and tells your PC to surf over to webpages related to that show.

TV shows holding the audio signals are starting to be aired in the US this week.

It is likely to prove popular with media junkies who surf the web as they are watching TV.

Hidden signals

In late May US television giant NBC announced it was working with technology firm Digital Convergence on a system called CueTV that gets a television set and a PC talking to each other.

When fitted with the CueTV gadget a PC will react to audio signals buried in a television programme and load webpages relevant to the show or advert being broadcast.

The first TV programme designed to work with Cue TV is an NBC game show that will give away $400,000 (284,000) in prizes when it is shown in June and July.

The technology is intended to prove a boost to interactive TV which many experts claim is not taking off. Some have said that the reason for this is the very different ways that people use TVs and PCs. Using a computer is usually a solitary experience and requires close attention to the screen, also the text sizes and images used on webpages reproduce badly on TV.

In contrast people relax, or lean back, when watching TV and tend to let the images wash over them.

Privacy row

Digital Convergence claims that Cue TV gets better use out of both TV and PC by letting them do what they do best.

In a bid to promote the concept the Cue TV kits are being given away free through Radio Shack electronics stores.

Last year Digital Convergence fell foul of privacy groups when its handheld CueCat scanner was found to collect data on browsing habits of users.

The scanner was used to read barcodes in print articles and direct readers to relevant websites.

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See also:

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Millionaire goes interactive
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TV ad goes interactive
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