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Facebook Can Now Identify the Song or TV Show You're Enjoying by Using Your Phone's Microphone

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

Courtesy of Facebook.

Facebook is listening.

The social network released a Shazam-like update to its mobile app Wednesday that allows you to automatically identify, using your phone’s microphone, the song or TV show you’re watching in Facebook posts.

The optional feature uses audio-recognition technology to match the title, album and artists of millions of songs and up to 160 channels of television programming. That includes everything from the NCAA playoffs to the most recent episode of Veep. 

Courtesy of Facebook.

It works like this: When you begin to compose a status on your Android or iOS app, you can choose to add what Facebook calls “a feeling” along with an illustrative emoji for context. You’ve probably seen it in your feed before, it’s sort of a subtext tagged onto the end of whatever a person wants to say.

In that section you’ll have the option to turn on the audio-listening feature. Then, anytime you open your mobile app to share a post, Facebook will automatically put its feelers out to see what you’re listening to or watching. That action is animated by a blue sound bar icon in the upper-right hand corner of your screen. If and when it detects a registrable song, it’ll attach its album artwork, along with the title and artist. If it’s a show, it’ll include the title, season, and episode number, or other relevant details, like who’s playing at a soccer game.

Courtesy of Facebook.

Facebook Product Manager Aryeh Selekman, who’s been working on this project for about a year, says he wanted to help add context for people who are posting about highly popular television like Game of Thrones (a show so addictive that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg put his $1 billion deal with Instagram on hold to watch).

"People are already sharing while they’re watching Game of Thrones, whether it’s through the activity button or just actually sharing it in a post,” Selekman told Yahoo Tech. “It’s unlikely that they’re going to be like, ‘I’m on episode four, season six,’ but that context is actually really valuable. If you’re a few episodes behind and you really wanted to have a conversation with your friends, you might be less likely to post. You don’t want people to spoil future episodes in the comments. Here it’s really clear where you are in the series.”

Television-related posts will be displayed with the show’s art, and will click through to the program’s Facebook page.

Music posts are designed with a little more oomph. A play button on the album artwork allows your friends to listen to a 30-second preview of the song within their feed, offering a soundtrack to your post. If they like what they hear, they can click it, and it’ll automatically start playing in one of three music streaming services: Spotify, Rdio, or Deezer. The app determines which music service to launch based on whichever one you logged into via Facebook last. If you don’t use Facebook as a log in, you’ll be randomly directed to one of the three services. 

Courtesy of Facebook.

“I think this is huge,” Selekman told Yahoo Tech. “Especially for mobile, where you’re kind of bound by your feed and you don’t necessarily want to be taken out of context. If you’re wondering if this is worth investing your time, you can just get a preview. And If you’re digging it, you just tap anywhere else on the album art.”

Selekman says that his team built this feature to work in lower volume scenarios, but also with ambient noise, for when “people are chatting or you’re at a bar.” He said he covertly tested the app on a recent trip to Vegas, and it seemed to hear through the jangle of the Casino’s machines well. Still, it’s variable depending on how loud that ambient noise is, and the volume of the actual song or show you want to track. 

Facebook is quick, however, to emphasize that the new matching feature does not record conversations or store data. In fact, it’s only activated when you open the composition box for a post. If it hasn’t found anything after 15 seconds, matching will shut off, ensuring it has little effect on the battery life of your phone.

This update comes just over a year after the original Feelings tool was released in April. Since then, Facebook has seen 5 billion feelings and activities shared on its social network. 

"We had been thinking about enabling the TV show and music matching," Selekman said. "Seeing how popular that feature was, we decided this seems like the right place to do it.” 

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her here