MUTR Aims To Tune Out Commercials

Though the Federal Communications Commission’s Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act ensures that the audio of TV commercials is on par with that for regularly scheduled programming, a startup wants to take the idea to the next level by giving consumers a way to mute all TV commercials.

Jersey City, N.J.-based Mutr, has developed a device that plugs into the consumer’s TV or audio system and automatically mutes TV spots, or simply tunes the viewer to another channel or switches on another device connected to the TV.

John Caudell, Mutr’s founder, said he created the original proof-of-concept in about a month and followed up with a patent for the core idea’s design and function. Caudell received a patent (U.S. No. 9,743,138) in August for a “Method for sound recognition task trigger” that describes a method for monitoring a program signal, using acoustic or video fingerprinting techniques, for certain content and performing a set of tasks when this “target” content is recognized.

In this case, the target content is a TV commercial. Mutr “fingerprints” spots and loads them into a database that is distributed to Mutr devices, Caudell explained. The Mutr device relies on this database as it monitors for TV spots. Once a commercial is detected, the device mutes the audio for its duration and toggles the sound on again when it’s completed.

He said the heavy lifting for that database comes by way of establishing a primary “universe” of commercials and expanding from there by sending updates to the Mutr devices.

Mutr intends to sell its device for between $20 and $30 and pair it with a subscription that will cost about $50 per year.

Mutr has built a prototype and has talks underway with Kickstarter to help with funding, but expects to open up pre-orders “soon,” Caudell said.

A question moving forward is whether Mutr will get any legal static from programmers, as Dish Network did with its AutoHop ad-skipping feature. Caudell acknowledged that there could be some blowback, but his legal advice so far has not found a case that centered on audio fingerprinting.