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Shopping By Cable And Phone

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With every giant from IBM to Time Warner Inc. hoping to wire households for home shopping, banking, and the like, it's hard for little guys to get a foot in the door. But executives of ASI in Dallas--formerly Audio Services Inc.--think they have an inexpensive way to do it. ASI, which provides information services by phone, is branching into interactive television through its September acquisition of 52% of Cableshare Inc. in London, Ont.

Using Cableshare's technology, ASI hopes to send audio to viewers over telephone lines while using empty cable channels to beam still-frame color images. Each viewer could request a different image--say, a picture of cotton shirts or a map of local pizza outlets. A box on top of the set would keep regenerating the frame on the screen until the viewer requested a new one. ASI is testing the advertiser-supported system in Birmingham, Mich., a Detroit suburb, in cooperation with Booth Communications Inc. It hopes to roll it out to other markets around the country beginning next year.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG

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