One of the most intriguing products unveiled at last year’s Techonomy conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, was TvTak – an app that invites you to hold your phone’s camera up to the TV screen, and identifies the show you’re watching within seconds. Finally today, it’s launched to the public – albeit only in the UK.

Currently only available for iOS, TvTak is eerily good at its job. Tap the ‘Point’ button, hold your camera up to the screen while watching one of the supported TV channels, and you’ll see the software identify the screen within your viewfinder. Assuming you’ve got a clear view of your TV, the app will identify the TV show in a couple of seconds.

From there, you can share the show you’re watching with other TvTak users or on Facebook. The Feed tab shows the latest ‘check-ins’ from users, while the Buzz tab shows channels that are currently receiving the most check-ins.

tvtak2 TvTak identifies the TV shows you watch using video recognition tvtak3 TvTak identifies the TV shows you watch using video recognition

TvTak also offers a ‘Win’ tab, which at launch supports TV ads by PepsiCo’s snack brand Walkers (what’s known as Lays or Frito-Lay outside the UK). Walkers is currently running a promotion involving a mystery flavour of crisps. Identifying one of the accompanying ads with TvTak will offer a clue to help users work out what the flavour is. The deal is a result of TvTak being a winner in the first PepsiCo10 Europe competition, which identifies startups to work with the food giant on pilot projects.

How does it work?

As we reported when TvTak launched at Techonomy, the identification technology relies on servers continually monitoring multiple TV channels. This allows the image recognition to be fast – identifying shows quicker than Yahoo’s IntoNow service can manage with its audio-based solution. We did experience a couple of glitches where it misidentified the channel or couldn’t get a lock on the screen, but it’s generally fast and accurate. In the UK, TvTak has launched with support for popular channels that are part of the BBC, ITV, Channel Four, Channel Five, Sky and MTV brands.

While TvTak is impressive, and you’ll probably have fun showing it off to your friends, it’s fair to say that the social side of the app is a little under-developed. At present, you can’t see shows shared just by people you know – there’s just a feed of all users, and sharing stills of TV shows isn’t necessarily the most rewarding social experience over time.

That said, TvTak’s real selling point is its technology, and if it can integrate with media-focused services that have already built up more solid audiences, such as GetGlue, it could be a real benefit to users by taking the pain out of checking in.

While TvTak is currently only available in the UK, the startup’s technology is used in Orange’s TVcheck app in France. TvTak is working on launches in Brazil, the Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, Spain and the USA in the coming months.

➤ TvTak