Shopping By Cable And Phone

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.

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