Yahoo’s New IntoNow Update Lets You Do More with TV

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Harry McCracken /

When Yahoo’s free IntoNow app for phones and tablets was new, the most interesting thing about it was the startling technology that made it a Shazam for TV. You held your gadget up, it listened to the soundtrack of whatever you were watching on your TV set and then it identified the program with nearly perfect accuracy.

Then it  checked you in to the show–so others could see what you were watching–and gave you access to tweets, discussions and other items relating to the program. This part of the app was just okay. It was obvious that IntoNow would benefit from giving you more stuff to do once it had figured out what you were watching.

And now it’s doing just that, with a beefier new version for iPhone and iPad. (The Andr0id version will get an update in coming months.) Yahoo’s added one feature that’s nearly as dazzling as the original show-identifying technology, plus some upgrades that make the app a more informative and engaging TV-watching companion.

The dazzling feature is called Capit. When you’re watching live TV–or anything you’ve recorded in the last week–you can tap a button and pull up screen shots of the show you’re watching. (Yep, IntoNow is running a massive DVR farm that’s recording TV streams and capturing vast quantities of these screens continuously, and can pull up images timed to the moment you pressed the Capit button.) You can then select a screen, add a LOLcats-style block-letter caption, and share it on IntoNow and Facebook and/or Twitter.

Is that a useful feature? Well, maybe, in some instances; I could see using it to share a cool moment from a sporting event, for instance. But I think IntoNow mostly envisions folks using it to joke around, engage in memes and otherwise playfully riff on imagery from shows they like.

In a less flashy but clever move, the new app scans the closed-captioning data for TV shows, identifies people, places and other concepts, and uses what it’s learned to show you relevant news stories and informational modules. If you’re watching Today, for instance, you might get related news stories which the app has culled from Yahoo News and around the web; if you’re tuned into an Olympics event, you might get quick-hit facts on the participating athletes and the countries they represent, plus links to more information on Yahoo.

The app can also identify songs played in shows–even if they aren’t the original versions or there’s background noise–and allows you to buy them on iTunes. And it includes a new group chat feature.

IntoNow has millions of users and is probably the most prominent of a gaggle of “second screen” apps, all of which aim, in one way or another, to give you something related to do while you’re watching TV. (Viggle, which lets you collect points to be exchanged for prizes, is another.) None of the contenders is a massive breakout hit yet, and all of them, I suspect, compete with Twitter and Facebook–two places where an awful lot of people go when they want to discuss the prime-time TV shows they’re watching–more than with each other.

I’ll be curious to see if Capit gives Yahoo’s app the viral boost it’s obviously intended to provide. I’ll bet it’s going to be a blast during the presidential debates…