Tag Archives: bbcr&d

Variations not versions

It was Si Lumb who tweeted me about Pixar’s Inside Out contextual visuals.

Now I know this isn’t anything new, I mean films have had region differences for a long while but its good to see it discussed openly and I was interesting to read about how (we think) they do it.

It’s interesting to note that the bottom five entries of the list, starting with “Thai Food,” remain consistent throughout (maybe Disney/Marvel Studios’ digital wizards couldn’t replace the stuff that Chris Evans’ hand passed over), but the top items change a lot.

Which leads me to think its all done in post production using things like impossible software?

Post producing this stuff is a mistake in my mind, but then again I’m working on the future of this kind of thing with Perceptive Media. I also imagine the writer and director had no time to think about variations for different countries, or wasn’t paid enough?

Rather than write up my thoughts of how to do this with digital cinema (isn’t this part of the promise of digital cinema?) plus I’m writing a paper with Anna frew about this. I thought it was about time I wrote something about the project I’m currently working on.

Visual Perceptive Media

Visual perceptive media is a short film which changes based on the person who is watching the video. It uses profiled data from a phone application to build a profile of the user via their music collection and some basic questions. The data then is used to inform what variations it should apply to the media when watched.

The variations are applied in real time and include different music, different colour grading, different video assets effects and much more. Were using the WebAudioAPI, WebGL and other open web technologies.

What makes this different or unique…?

  • We had buy in with the script writer and director (Julius Amedume was both and amazing) right from the very start which makes a massive difference. The scripts were written with all this in mind.
  • It was shot and edited with its intended purpose of making real-time variations.
  • Most things we (BBC R&D) have done in the responsive/perceptive area has been audio based and this I would say is a bit of moonshot moment like Breaking Out 3 years ago! Just what I feel the BBC should be doing.
  • Keeping with the core principle of Perceptive media, the app which Manchester based startup Percepiv (was moment.us, wondered if working with us had a hand in the name change?) created using there own very related technology. Is mainly using implicit data to build the profile. You can check out music+personality on your own android and iphone now.

Its going to be very cool and I believe we the  technology has gotten to the point where it makes sense that we can do this so seamlessly that people won’t even know or realise (this is something we will be testing in our lab). As Brian McHarg says, theres going to be some interesting water cooler conversations, but the slight variations are going to be even more subtle and interesting.

This is no branching narrative

I have been using the word variations throughout this post because I really want us to get away from the notion of edits or versions. I recently had the joy of going Learn Do, Share Warsaw. I was thinking about how to explain what our thinking was with the Visual Perceptive Media project. How do you explain which has 2 films genres with 6 established endings with 20+ types music genres and a endless number of lengths and effects?

This certainly isn’t a branching narrative and the idea of branching narrative is certainly not apt here. If this was a branching narrative, it would have upwards of 240 versions not including any of the more subtle effects to increase your viewing enjoyment. I considered them as variations and the language works, when you consider the photoshop variation tool. This was very handy when talking to others not so familiar with perceptive media.  But its only a step and makes you consider there might be editions…

I was talking to my manager Phil about it before heading to Warsaw and came up with something closer to the tesseract/hypercube in interstellar (if you not seen it/spoiler alert!)

Unlimited Variations

Unlimited isn’t quite right but the notion of time and variations which intersect is much closer to the idea. I say to Si Lumb maybe the way to show this would be in VR, as I certainly can’t visualise it easily.

When its up and running I’d love people to have a go and get some serious feedback.

On a loosely related subject, Tony Churnside also tweeted me about Perceptive Media breaking into the advertising industry.

Our rights in the data/digital/cyberspace

Doc Searls

We have two selves in the world at any given time now. We have the physical self, our flesh and blood, our voice, our presence in the world which extends beyond our bodies but lives in this physical space. There’s this other space, we started out calling cyberspace a long time ago, but it’s a real thing. It’s a data space.”

…Doc Searls

There is one charity I always give time and money to, the Open Rights Group. For me our human rights transcend (must/should)  into the digital domain. Its the new battleground. Its also something lots of people are not really aware of or take for granted. But every week there’s another news story of our digital rights being taken for granted and abused on unimaginable scales.

Digital rights are your human rights in the digital age. They are one of the most important aspects of your human rights today: privacy and free expression online are among the most contested. The digital rights movement exists because we need people to understand how technology is shaping our rights, for good and for ill, and who it is who is seeking to employ and capture technology for their benefit rather than yours.

There are positive and negative sides which I have written about many times.

Its becoming clear that the services we use, connected objects and spaces we inhabit are collecting our personal data. What they are doing with that data is only one of the question asked in ethics of data documentaries.

The documentaries which were put together by BBC R&D, exploring the implications for  digital right through the lens of the physical internet, personal data, data ownership and data management.

Alexander DS

Why the physical internet?

For many people the internet is still an entity which exists in a box, be it a desktop computer or laptop. This notion is pretty much broken by mobile devices and smart tvs. LG and Samsung have both been caught out using personal data in ways undesirable by most people were not expecting. But thats only the tip of the iceberg as Alex says…

You could make a good case for technology to be imbedded in everything we know. What kind of technology it is and what does it do, and what purpose does it serve is always the next question

Its time to consider a much wider context that most people think about when they hear internet of things. Think smart homes, cars, spaces and cities.

Jon Rogers

You’re personal data and privacy?

The comments made by the likes of Vint Serf about privacy being an anomaly and this being a digital dark age. It made sense to try and tackle the big issue of privacy in the digital age. There so much which could be explored as this is a very deep  and complex subject. There is only so much you can explore in minutes, but I feel Jon highlights why this is more critical than ever before.

We always make mistakes and we always want to forget them and the trouble with the internet is that we can’t forget them.”

Adriana lukus

Its about ownership and choice?

It all seems pretty scary and negative, and it never was meant to be. So to underline the choices people need/should make, we looked into ownership and choice. Something I have through a lot about especially with my history with dataportability. Early adopters are not only collecting their own data but also analysing it and quantifying it. As Adriana says…

“The quantified self is that, is the living, breathing part of the web or the technology scene where people genuinely care about data.”

The documentaries are made so you can comment directly on parts (thanks to reframed.tv), so please do. We look forward to the discussion and don’t forget to join our diigo group bookmarking related news stories.

What data is personal to you?

Alex data ethics

On International data privacy day, BBC R&D has posted a video asking a bunch of smart people what data is personal to them?

As I have been working on the project for quite sometime, I can happily say there is a lot more to come. Including ways to feedback. Go check have a look and see if you agree with the opinions of our industry experts?

You might have seen the theme of the work in the blog post ethics of data and what we setup at Mozilla Festival. Expect more in the future…


Another video which must be watched…

Aral Balkan – Free is a Lie – Thinking Digital 2014 from Thinking Digital on Vimeo.

Aral drives me a little crazy, I end up writing massive long blog posts about his talks. But I have to give it to him, the showmanship and underlying ideas are pretty much good. You can see for yourself in the talk which got me writing about the 5 stacks.

Don’t forget to check out my blog for BBC R&D connected what happened at the Quantified self and Thinking DigitalThe panel discussion which I made reference to, is also up and Tom Scott’s video telling us its all going to be ok.

Maybe next time you should come to Thinking Digital and experience it for yourselves?

2 conferences in 1 week (Sheffield Doc Fest & Primeconf)

This week just passed and I got to say it wasn’t half as bad as it seemed on paper or at least my calendar.

Sheffield documentary festival

Variable Documentary preview

I headed across to Sheffield on Sunday to give a talk with Tony Churnside at the Sheffield international documentary festival about Perceptive Media. It very went well and I kind of wished I stayed over so I could keep some of the conversations going and there was plenty else going on which I wanted to check out.

The festival seems to take over the whole city and the weather was great on the Sunday and Wednesday. Wednesday I didn’t talk but rather supported some collages who showed an early preview of the variable length documentary.

Next year I hope we will have a lot more to show, and next year I hope to spend more time at the rest of the festival.

Best of British / Primeconf

Primeconf: Best of British

This conference which started out on kickstarter and became a real conference arranged by long time friend Thayer Prime. It was a bit of a crazy idea but the result was something worthwhile and maybe the start of something new and interesting.

The speakers were as you can imagine by the title, British speakers.

It really was something special, and it was a joy to be a small part of the whole event.

I gave a shorter version of the dating, lies and algorithms talk I have been wanting to give. So look out it may be back sooner or later as a more involved talk. It went down well although I certainly did take out all the personal stuff and non PG-13 stuff to fit with the code of conduct. Something which sadly later in the day seemed to have got forgotten, with swearing and a questionable slide.

Regardless, I learned a number of things including Priya is behind changify.org  (something which we tried to do ages ago in the form of wedreamthecity) and could be helpful with gentrification and communities. Some other stand out presentations include Pete Duncanson, Chris Thorpe, Herb Kim, Dr Tom Crick, Amy Mather and a special mention of Mazz Mosley’s super low budget style of presentation. Love it! Good to finally meet her too.

Is Thayer going to do it again? I certainly think she should… I’m actually thinking Herb and Thayer could create something which is special? The venue was great (Royal Institution, yes the one they do the Royal Christmas lectures from!) and a good turn out.

Both events were well worth effort of attending and speaking at… For such a packed week going to London twice and Sheffield twice, I actually feel ok. Just a shame my treat of going to Thorpe Park wasn’t anything like when going in March/April.

Tangible playlists

#1 Mixtape

There’s been a research project I have been thinking about quite a bit. It involves something of a passion of mine and maybe many others. It combines a couple of thoughts, I have actually blogged a few times.


Make DJing physical again

I have been calling for the more democracy in the world of Djing for a while. Luckily I’m not the only one thinking this, the pacemaker guys are all over this. But before their latest app, I was inspired by my experience of switching from vinyl to laptop to the pacemakerdevice. But frustrated by the lack of forward thinking by the rest of the Dj world. I called for a hackday for djs, oppose to the already popular music hackday.

Part of the thinking was around making the DJ experience physical again, as pressing buttons behind a laptop screen makes you look like your doing your email, not banging out a epic set. Physical without needing tons of controllers and moving away from 2 decks and a mixer.

There are parallels with Djing/Mixing and making a playlist. A lot of thinking goes into the tune selection. But like mixes, the platform allows you to be more creative than simply play one tune after another. You may choose to play part of a tune, start a tune after the introduction. You may choose to speed up or slow down a tune. The mixtape is a narrative, a narrative your giving to another person. To think about a pls, m3u or xspif is almost an insult.


Physically sharing things

I have spoken at length about the way we are physical beings and tend to prefer physical things. Whats interesting about physical things is the emotional attachment which comes with them. I even said it myself before…

Physical artifacts are much easier to lend to people and much more likely to be taken seriously by friends currently.

My examples include my book collection and the best example is the creativity which went into mixtapes.

Like it or not, there is something about sharing which is instantly more engaging. I think it might have something to do with the way our brains are wired. Something some people take advantage of (wish I could find the exact effect/scam, where someone gives you a small token gift and you in exchange tend to open your pocket to bigger amounts)…

There have been many attempts to give digital things a physical footprint but its always felt forced. What if you could take the best parts of digital and give them a physical footprint?

What would that look like, what would it be able to do which you can’t do right now in both mediums?

Atlas Hands

Tangible Playlists

This project I nicked named Tangible Playlists… Although its actually called physical playlists. Its a join project between BBC R&D and Lancaster University.

‘Mix tapes’ were a thing of love, a physical object which people would share with significant others and friends around them. They were naturally a social object and highly representative of a person’s identity. The knowledge of effort involved by the giver in selecting the songs and having to sit through each one was also part of the symbolism for the receiver.  Objects can be generated and shaped from and by the media you “teach” them or existing objects you play (embed) media into. Thus the modern mix tape could become a linked series of small objects like lucky charms which are physically shareable in a form representing the tracks they contain.
This is based on the idea that physical items often mean more to us as physical beings and adds a level of exclusivity and personalisation to the sharing process. Considering transplatform engagement and the ability to engage users and viewers in co-creating media it is suggested that this may present as a new modality for user co-creation and curation.

You can read more about the project including a real nice piece about slow digital by Lancaster Uni. It will be great once the project is finished.

Other playlists

Interestingly Nathan Langley is working with others on a startup idea called Desert.fm.

Our industry is full of stories and there is many outlets for them. Blogs, publications, podcasts all giving interviews giving designers and developers a platform to share their sources of inspiration and to tell their story. We found music was usually an afterthought or a sideline, for our idea Desert fm we want to bring music to the fore, in view to create the ultimate inspiring playlist that everyone can access to discover new music and be enthralled by.

Ultimately Nathan would like a playlist from me with a few lines on why each track means something to me in an autobiographical sense.

This could be anything. For example, one track was around when you were you at school, sketching and doodling ideas for a new transformer! Or when you first learning code in the dead of night you had a special artist you would go to to get in the zone. Or just a song you are digging at the moment. This can be as long or as short as you want it.

This reminds me of Top10.com and ultimately Listgeeks.

So here is my clubbing days gone by list

  1. Seven Days And One Week – BBE – Clubbing in Ibiza in 1998, it was heavily played everywhere and although I got bored of it at the time, it still reminds me of the early days of Trance.
  2. Please Save Me (Push Remix) – Push vs Sunscreem – This was known as the Monster track by friends and the girlfriend I was dating at the time. It was killer track and made for some great nights out at the Bristol, Ritzy
  3. Oblivion (Head In The Clouds) – Manix – One of the tunes I danced to in the early days of clubbing in a underground rave.
  4. It’s My Turn (Extended Mix) – Angelic – Driving home from Bristol on the A4 road with my old Aprilla SR125 scooter listening to Judge Jules on the Essential mix. It was perfectly timed for hitting west London.
  5. Time to get ill – 4 Hero – I spent some time in Cheltenham once during school at a special event to do with the rotary club. There was a small funfair and I spent a lot of time on a ride which played Time to get ill again and again. Great time!
  6. Music Reach (1,2,3,4) – Prodigy – This song blew my mind when I first heard it on the Prodigy Experience album, which I borrowed from friend/best man Ross. I wanted more music like it.
  7. Passion (Do You Want it Right Now) – Get Decor – This song sums up clubbing in the old Bristol Mecca discotheque. Its the song which comes to mind when thinking about that period of time.
  8. Rhythm is a Dancer – Snap! – Remember listening to my next door neighbor playing this on 12inch vinyl and being blown away by the introduction. It sounded so alive, then hearing it in a club the week afterwards
  9. The Legacy (Club Mix) – Push – When I heard this tune at the Bristol Ritzy, it blew my mind. I seeked out this tune for a good few months, as I had to own it.
  10. Let me show you – Camisra – When I first heard this in a club, it brought me out chills all over. Love it and its a classic.

There is something quite special about Playlists and its amazing the stories which come out of the wood work when picking music. Imagine what would happen if you could pick any media. This is what we’ll be exploring/researching in Tangible playlists.

Can’t wait to share more details on the project soon…

Where Storytelling and Internet of Things cross over

If you know anything about the kind of work I’ve been researching for R&D. You may know Perceptive Media is big deal in my world and as my motto seems to be, my world is not mainstream yet. However this world crosses over with a couple other areas. Internet of Things, Quantified Self and Object media are a few of the obvious ones, which come to mind.

Tomorrow I’m fortunate enough to take part in another one of the Future of Storytelling weekly hangouts. I took part in one a while ago but I regularly watch on Wednesdays (1730 GMT) before heading to Volleyball. Make sure you tune into the hangout

 join us this Wednesday, March 12, as we explore “the story of things” with Alexis Lloyd, the Creative Director of the New York Times’s Research and Development Lab. The “Internet of Things,” has ushered us into an age where physical objects have the potential to talk to us – and each other – in a way that rapidly transforms our most basic understanding of what gadgets are.  Llloyd, informed in part by her background designing immersive and exploratory experiences, believes these “enchanted objects” have within them a world of narrative and poetic potential: The R+D lab exists as a laboratory for the staff of the “Grey Lady” to study the implications of these emerging technologies and behaviors on news-media and print. In the hangout she, alongside an audience of industry experts, will explore the storytelling potential of tools and devices as unassuming as a simple bathroom mirror.

The video sums it up well and gets right into the depths of storytelling and the Internet of things. It begs the question, what would objects around you say if they could talk?

Love what Alexis is doing and who knows what might happen in the future? Sure Perceptive Publishing would be right up their avenue? And some of the guys from the NYtimes office came to Hackday and Mashed back in the day… I wonder what they would make of some more of the object things were up to?

300seconds at the BBC Media City

Becky, Rosie, Jasmine - The R&D girls

It wasn’t Ted and it wasn’t TedXSalford (still need to write up my thoughts on that conference). It was something new and fresh… 300seconds I wrote about a while ago announcing its first regional (outside of London) event at Media City UK. New fresh and something which would actually help the people giving the presentation as well as inspire the audience.

The line up for the event was great balance of talks by women who all had different levels of talking experience. They all had reasons why they wanted to give it a try and frankly all did a fantastic job! Nerves and all!

Kylie Hodges, Bliss, The World of Social Media, Premature Babies and International Engagment
Jasmine Cox, BBC, Maker of Things
Ciara McVeigh, Discerning Digital, You Don’t Have to be a Geek to Work in Tech

300Seconds at BBC North

Victoria Sorzano, BBC, Confessions of a Digital Witch: Finding your Niche
Amy Lynch, ThoughtWorks, The underrepresentation of women in tech conferences
Rebecca Gregory-Clarke, BBC, How to Build a Weather Robot

Rosie Campbell, BBC, Using Game Theory to survive in a hungry tribe
Catherine Jones, Science Museum, Turning a 1920′s radio into a 21st Century Exhibit

The videos for the talks will be up on the 300seconds you tube channel in the near future.

Robin and Amy Lynch

I wanted to say thank you to BBC R&D who supported the project along with BBC North. Louise Blythe for her lovely hands off coaching and great 3 useful points for communicating an idea to someone. Robin Cramp who has seriously become a superstar MC for conferences, he’s so funny and so entertaining I think he may deserve his own show. His wheel of feedback was simply hysterical.

Fantastic night and I’m happy to say we’re already in talks about doing another in 2014, so look out for your chance to sign up and put yourself forward to talk for 300seconds.

Shining a light on your data


Theres a few projects which come along and get me excited… One which got me recently was Mozilla lightbeam.

Lightbeam is a Firefox add-on that uses interactive visualizations to show you the first and third party sites you interact with on the Web. As you browse, Lightbeam reveals the full depth of the Web today, including parts that are not transparent to the average user.

Fascinating stuff… Sounds very familiar to something were doing in BBC R&D (soon to be blogged and I talked about at Oggcamp13). Wonder if Mozilla would be interested in working together? Maybe I missed the chance, when I didn’t go to Mozilla Fest 2013?

Or if not maybe the Ford Foundation would be a good partner?

Ford Foundation focuses on building outreach campaigns to help people understand online data tracking — both the benefits and the issues

Don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you, but you can imagine what were thinking…

Perceptive Radio

perceptivemedia radio

Photo credit: Greg Povey, @topfife CC-BY-SA (official photo)

Today at the Thinking digital conference in Gateshead, we (BBC R&D) launched the latest prototype for Perceptive Media.

Perceptive Radio, is a project collaboration between BBC R&D, Mudlark and MCQN ltd.

Perceptive Radio credits

It can playback Perceptive Media content and has sensors of its own (proximity, light and microphone) to modify the media elements/objects in real-time. I quickly did an audioboo interview with Christian while finishing publicly showing the radio for the first time.

It will be compared to the Olinda radio which Berg made years ago, and they both share the prototype label…

…aims to provoke discussion on the future and design of radios for the home

Exciting times and there will be loads more information coming soon including details of the open sourcing of this…


Surround Video on the Steam box?

Surround Video

Following my last post …

Theres a another interesting thing Gabe said in his interview about the steam box,

Do you envision a Steam Box connecting to other screens outside the living room?

The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaeneous game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors — now we’re saying let’s expand that a little bit.

Well that certainly helps solve the surround video setups in the future.

This is something I was sniffing around Sony as a R&D project many years ago. I wonder if MHL could make almost any device surround video possible now? Still needs setting up, a projector and a massive parabolic mirror however…

Perceptive Media in Wired UK’s Top Tech for 2013

Perceptive Media in Wired Magazine

Someone from the BBC’s Future Media PR pointed out to me that I was in the latest issue of Wired UK. The whole thing isn’t online yet but I’ve made a manual copy (thanks to Laura Sharpe for buying the ipad version on my behalf)… Till its up online

Advertising Displays, Television and consoles are hooking up with recognition software to second-guess our hidden desires. By Ed White

Televisions, computers and retail displays are increasingly watching us as much as we’re watching them. They are likely to be the catalyst for a shift from mass to personalised media. Broadcastsers, game developers and tech companies have long dreamt of knowing who’s watching, and then making content relevant to each viewer.

Cheap cameras and sensors are making “perceptive media” a reality. First was Microsoft, whose Xbox gaming peripheral Kinect, launched in 2010, has put a perceptive-media device into more that 18 million homes worldwide. By linking people to their Xbox Live identity using facial recognition, it has made the gaming experience more tailored. But perceptive media is wider than gaming. Over two years, Japan Railways’ East Japan Water Business has installed about 500 intelligent vending machines that recognise customers’ age and gender via sensors and suggest drinks accordingly. Intel’s Audience Impression Metrics suite (Aim) users data captured by cameras on displays in shops to suggest products. Kraft and Adidas are early adopters. The software will also monitor responses to improve brands’ marketing.

But the real winner will be the entertainment industry. Samsung and Lenovo announced at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show that their new TVs will recognise a viewer by using a camera incorporated into the set, and bring up their favourite programmes; Intel is working on a set-top box with similar  capabilities. Face tracking software is also making our screens more intuitive. Japanese broadcaster NHK is experimenting with emotion-recongnition software which can suggest, say a more exciting TV show if it detects boredom. But where perceptive media gets really exciting is in using viewer data to change narratives in real time. US-based video game company Valve software is experimenting with biofeedback systems, measuring physiological signals such as heart rate and pupil dilation in players of Portal 2 and Alien Swarm. If the zombies aren’t making you sweat, the AI director can send in more. And television may follow, believes Ian Forrester senior producer at BBC R&D. Sensors in your TV would pick up who’s in the room and subtly change the programmes’s details, live: for example the soundtrack could be based on your Spotify favorites.

If that sounds Big Brother-ish, that’s because it is. Perceptive media’s biggest hurdle will be privacy. But advocates such as Daniel Stein, founder CEO of San Francisco based digital agency EVB, say that if brands can prove the value of data sharing, they’ll win people over. Here’s looking at you.

Ed White is a senior writer and consultant at contagious communications, a London-based marketing consultancy


Perceptive media in wired magazine