Very early stage thinking around Perceptive Media

Some people may have heard me mention Perceptive Media in conversation before but it wasn’t till yesterday than most people hasn’t ever heard of it. At Social Media Cafe Manchester (now named #SMC_MCR after the hashtag) it was revealed to the web native audience what Perceptive Media was.

Martin has written up the presentation on the Next Web. But I wanted to clarify a few things.

Perceptive Media isn’t a BBC project (as such), its the result of watching hackers and early adopters during the BBC Backstage days and spotting where trends may be heading. Its a BBC R&D idea which been kicked around quite a bit by me and finally started to grow some legs in BBC R&D as a really interesting body of work, as a result of the questions it raises. So its actually very early days and if you talk to most BBC departments they will have no idea what you mean. Actually lots of people get confused between Perceptive, Personalised and Pervasive. I guess both have the ability to transform our media landscape…

But in this case we’re talking Perceptive media… So what is Perceptive Media?

“It takes narrative back to something more aligned to a storyteller and a audience around a campfire using Internet technologies and sensibility to create something closer to a personal theater experience in your living room…”

Of course this would be of interest to the BBC because we have many storytellers/narrative writers who would love to be able to tell stories like they were around a campfire. But its got to be clear this is my thoughts and not the view of the BBC. And with that I wanted to clarify a few other things…

Here’s how it would work – a TV signal would be sent, as normal, to your set-top box or TV. However, the hardware in your living room would be able to modify that signal with information about you, to create a subtly different version of what you were watching, personalised for you.

Its not Personalised TV… At SMC, I talked about how a storyteller has a sense of where there going and can make slight changes for the audience (around the campfire remember) not a single individual. I mean who wants to sit around listening to a story written for a friend? TV consumption is usually done in groups not as individuals and Perceptive Media is meant for this. Although later Martin says…

There are many challenges for Perceptive Media right now – for example, if five people with varying backgrounds and tastes were watching together, how would the software know the best way of showing the programme to suit them all? Forrester said that it would take all viewers into consideration and display something that suited them all – but would that really work?

This is exactly why were researching to see if it would be possible. Its a brilliant research question and such a great one for storywriters…

While the BBC’s experiments are at an early stage, it’s easy to see how other parts of the media would be attracted to Perceptive Media. Imagine the fun advertisers could have, tailoring ads to your circumstances and tastes.

At the subject of what others (such as advertisers) would do with such technology if it existed was discussed at great length. I did show a clip from Black Mirror ep2. Mainly to discuss what others (aka non BBC) may be thinking in this area. This caused much outcry as you can see on the #smc_mcr hashtag. Maria said this which sums up the privacy side of perceptive media.

#SMC_MCR: the Black Mirror episode ’15 Million Credits’ hints at the future of perceptive media <– VERY SCARY & UNACCEPTABLE

The questioning was actually very good and I wished I’d recorded some of it as some real valid points were raised but there were a lot of questions which I had raised myself for research questioning already.

Giving the presentation at SMC was maybe badly timed because it would be much better to have a clear demo/prototype to get a feel for whats possible and how it could work. Instead, I got carried away with my own excitement of the early idea, maybe? Almost everyone I’ve explained the concept to date, has been as excited as myself. So its maybe easy to see why I pushed forward with it.

So, what exactly does the BBC have cooking in its labs? Forrester wouldn’t say precisely, except that it was aiming for “low-hanging fruit” at first, while he showed a picture of a radio on a slide. Perceptive Audio? It’s a possibility, but we’ll have to wait to see what emerges. Whatever the case, this is an early-stage research project, so don’t expect a big launch for the technology any time soon.

Indeed you won’t see this technology for many years, at least from the BBC but you may see prototypes and demos. Perceptive Audio would be a very interesting concept (hence perceptive media not perceptive tv).

I am writing a paper about Perceptive Media which I hope to maybe one day make it out into the public realm, but I still believe in places like SMC to exchange knowledge and ideas. Thanks to Martin for writing it up, and I hope to give another presentation once we have a better grasp of some of the answers to some of these questions. Till then, there is a public diigo group where we highlight some examples which we think might be interesting…