Automatically Weed The Celebrity Gossip Out Of Your TV Time

[Matt Richardson] came up with a doozy of an idea: using an Arduino to monitor the closed caption on TV and mute it when news about ridiculous celebrities is on-screen.

He’s using the video experimenter shield to monitor the captions. This shield connects via composite video, and can be used to decode the binary code that carries the captions in the overscan at the top of the screen. When a keyword comes through, an IR LED sends the mute command to the television, then waits until 30 seconds have gone by since the last keyword before un-muting. It’s like a troll-sniffing rat for your television! Now we just need to figure out how to use it to mute during commercials too.

[Matt] suggests we should imagine all of the cool stuff we could do with access to the closed caption data; we were already deep in thought by the time he got around to the suggestion. This would be a fantastic prank in a location were the television sound is not being used. You could put the Arduino inline with the video feed, then program it to wait for keywords in the news report and alter them in funny ways… like a live mad lib.

You can see [Matt’s] video explanation of the project after the break.

32 thoughts on “Automatically Weed The Celebrity Gossip Out Of Your TV Time

  1. I do it by not watching TV other than what I torrent or rip from DVD’s I buy.

    I would buy TV shows if they offered them in a download format I want (Mpeg4 no DRM) or play on the player I have (XBMC)… but they dont want to. only streaming (no thanks) or only on a tablet or laptop running an inferior OS (Windows)

    1. @fartface
      What makes you think you have a right to enjoy other people’s effort for free, just because you don’t like the options/prices they’ve set?

      Seriously, I’m curious. So many people have this ridiculous sense of entitlement.

      It sucks that media companies have their heads up their asses. But how is it moral or acceptable to steal the work and thought of the creators of these shows you clearly value?

      Presumably you get paid for doing some sort of work; presumably you feel your effort has value. You and your employer may differ on that value, but would you accept it if your employer simply took the results of your effort and refused to compensate you?

      Of course not. How is torrenting any different?

      P.S. I noticed you buy DVDs, obviously I’m commenting on the torrenting.

      1. My tax dollars paid for the airwaves they get to transmit in and make a profit out of.

        Secondly, I’m curious why you think it’s “stealing” when they broadcast it for free over the air. How does it magically become stealing when it changes from my TV receiving the free OTA ATSC broadcast, or if I torrent it?

        Sounds like someone drank far too much “Intellectual property” cool-aid. IF you threw it to the winds for free, you cant claim someone stole it because they did not use an antenna to receive it.

      2. You sound like a content creator – artist or musician perhaps? Regardless, making copies of TV shows has not been proven the same thing as stealing a DVD from a store. However morally wrong it may be, downloading the last episode of House or whatever (that aired for free and you just happened to miss) is really not that big of a deal, IMO. *I am not promoting piracy.

      3. His argument is valid and really deserves a response.

        The shows are literally given out for free, and there is no obligation of any kind on the viewer.

        If someone hands out a free newspaper supported by ads am I required to view the ads? Am I prohibited from removing the ad pages before reading?

        Your view on “rights” is interesting as well. I don’t have a “right” to remove the ads on a TV broadcast, because none is needed. I have the “right” to do ANYTHING, so long as it is not expressly prohibited.

        And the supreme court had a case which is on-point and directly addresses the issue. It is not prohibited, so yes he has the right to do it.

        You are trying to conflate the issue with downloading restricted content – DVDs and movies which were *not* broadcast for free.

        That’s a separate issue.

        Stop handwaving and conflating and construct a rational argument as to why we are prohibited from removing commercials from free content.

        Let’s see if you can do it.

      4. If you’re torrenting shows broadcast over the air, absolutely, I agree.

        My experience has been that people who say “I torrent because I can’t get the formats/DRM options I want” are just grabbing anything and everything they can. Sounds like that’s not you, so my bad.

      5. To the other commenters and for clarity – I don’t see any problem with torrenting shows available for free on the airwaves.

        Fartface didn’t make that distinction in his original post, so I jumped to a conclusion that he was making a similar argument to the one I saw last week, where a guy in the UK was defending torrenting shows broadcast only in the US because if he hadn’t, he’d “still only be on season 1 of Breaking Bad”.

      6. Even non-OTA shows being torrented has been rejected in court if you prove you were paying for cable at the time.

        The case I remember reading about they used one of the sub-clauses of the law that allows your neighbor to record a cable TV show for you on VHS, as long as you both are paying for cable. They (successfully) argued whether or not it’s on a tape or over the cloud makes no difference, as long as you could have viewed it legally on your TV anyway.

    1. Most commercials don’t have captioning data so it wouldn’t be too hard to mute the TV if you haven’t read anything. I’ve noticed that if there’s a music bed playing or random sound effects the caption track usually has something going along with that.

      1. I think it is possible to determine when commercials pass on TV. But I think it should be done on the sound. In fact, during TV ads the sound is much more compressed than during a normal TV show or whatever. I think this can be detected with some kind of audio processing like looking at energy density spectrum or something like that. So commercials could be muted as well.
        It’s just an idea, I’ve got no TV and I’m happy without it!

  2. Clever, but not new. I remember a similar project in the early days of Microchip. A PIC monitored the CC for any reference to OJ Simpson (during his trial in 1995, he was the topic of about 40% of all new coverage in the US) and muted the TV for a fixed length of time.

  3. My MythTV uses several fading detection algorithms to detect commercials, flag them and delete them. (something that would never fly on consumer OTS systems like Tivo). Not really new technology.. but I always love hearing new ways of sticking it to marketers! :)


  4. Whenever I mute my TV (mostly at night when Mrs. Barefoot is sleeping), the captions are almost always 5-15 seconds late, and usually so horribly misspelled it’s almost laughable. At least, that’s my experience when watching (what they try to pass off as) news. So, I don’t see how this would help.

  5. Wow nice project!
    Anyway to ID the ads during the movies??
    like a constant logo disappearing, or somehow with closed caption?

    Maybe displaying a basic screen saver during this time xD

    This way you can stop being brainwashed by the media or your government.

  6. Given the ‘word cloud’ demo produced by the creators of the video experimenter shield, it seems like it should be fairly trivial to adapt this to generate a markov model (if not quite so trivial to store it — I expect that anyone trying to keep a markov model of words on television with an arduino will need to hook up either to a computer or an SD card). Then, in addition to muting, the closed captions can be spoofed to be a first-order chain of closed captions from other types of material.

    Alternately, if you are masochistic, you can try to do this with audio and overdub annoying news stories with tenth- or twentieth-order markov chains of normal news story audio. If you are less masochistic, you can send the modified closed captions to some speech synthesis hardware and overdub it that way.

  7. I love this project idea, and can see that it could be improved slightly by using the RS-232 port on the back of the TV (provided it has one) to send the mute command instead of relying on an IR led. That’s my two cents.

    Thanks hackaday

  8. I see great potential here for some awesome pranks. Parse the video stream for a keyword, and when found, activate an x10 device or rf remote to make strange things happen in the house.

    For example, imagine a die-hard football fan who finds himself running to answer the doorbell every time the word “touchdown” is uttered during a game…

    Or how about a table lamp that flashes on and off every time somebody on television uses the word “light?”

    1. I had a VCR that would automatically fast-forward through commercials on a recorded videocassette. That means there must be some easy to recognize sign when going from show to commercial and back. Quick search says it’s called “Commercial Advance”.

  9. If he can get this to work with the “Go Compare” adverts we have here in the UK I’m sure he would make a mint.

    If anyone’s curious take a look on youtube or somewhere. Terrible.

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