Project Google Glass

If your like me, you love Google in certain parts.

One of the parts I do love is the open nature of their innovation and research.

Project Glass is a reality (my bets was on Project Looking Glass) as I suspected and correctly put into my recent SMC ignite talk. Better still, its something their researching about in an open way, as they gather comments and views

Its something I would like to do more of at BBC R&D. Me and my manager battle (in a nice way) back and forth about when’s the best time to be open or go public? In this case he would be right, the video captures the idea perfectly and although its not real yet, its enough to get people talking and commenting.

Open innovation certainly comes to mind… Nytimes has more details. But join the conversation and add what you think!

Update… Don’t forget to check out Tom Scott’s take (the piss) on Project Glass 🙂

Inspiring the next generation…

I am a geek

On Wednesday I’ve been invited to Albion High School for their World of Work as part of the BBC’s outreach programme. Its something I’ve always wanted to do more of but till now not really done anything about till now.

I’ll be talking with year 9, considering there options for GCSEs next year. I have roughly a hour with each group and they will shuffle around each hour. It was suggested if I wanted to give a presentation of what I do, that might be good. However I’m unsure what exactly I would present if I did…

This is consistent with the new economy of work and dare I say it rework. How can/do you explain what you do to people outside this new economy? I have this problem all the time when meeting new people or going on dates.

Most of the time saying I work for the BBC tends to throw up many more questions like “which TV show do you work on?” I then explain I work at BBC R&D and ask if they have an idea what R&D means? After a second or so, I chip in with its Research & Development. They usually start saying, “oh you research for which programme?” To which I tend have to try and explain I’m work on technology which underpin what the BBC does and will do into the future.

If I’m feeling a little more playful, I will say something like “I work in the grey area between legal and illegal, seeking out emerging technology/opportunities which hackers, startups, early adopters are working on to scratch their own itches.” Although stretching the truth its not far wrong.

So back to the main question… How best to communicate what I do and the opportunities available to the next generation?

Ultimately I’m really hoping to bring out the geek in each one of them (tall order in less than a hour), convince them they can follow their passion no matter what it may be, because frankly life is too short (oh good video to show).

I’m tempted to show i am i do the all new Google Schemer, and maybe some podcast videos then talk about different aspects of my work life/aspirations. Hopefully it will inspire some questions and if not I can ask the young people about their media/social habits?

If this goes well, hopefully I’ll do some more as the BBC does quite a lot of outreach.

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 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…

How I roll at work

I recently filled in a group of people at work about how I work, and I thought it might be interesting to readers of my blog…
I have the Thinkpad X220 which is a BBC R&D laptop and running Ubuntu 11.10 (as of this week, but its going back due to hardware problems).
I switch between the BBC R&D network and the BBC R&D wireless network when I want raw (un-proxyed) internet access. This actually works well because I don’t need to use my BBC desktop machine unless I need to accept a calendar request and send it to my gmail (which is pain, more details about this soon).
I’d hoped to get Gnome Evolution working with the socks5 proxy as it should be able to deal with my Calendar as it has Exchange support but currently no Socks5 support (why I have no bloody idea!). So I’m trying out sockisfy and Tsocks… But right now I’m using Mozilla Thunderbird 7.1 with the IMAP interface to get emails when I switch to the R&D network.
This also means it limits the time I’m in my email and means I get more done… (Something I know from using Rescuetime in the past and tracking my usage at work) I tend to switch to the R&D network about 3-5x a day for about 20mins each time but most of the time I’m on the non proxied wireless network.
This means I automatically get disconnected from IRC, Tweetdeck, Gtalk, etc when changing to the R&D network but I do have the essential things like Twitter and Gtalk on my mobile phone which is always connected to the Wireless network. I could change the proxy settings but I kind prefer it that way, although I did add foxyproxy to Firefox because it was a pain not being able to browse a site someone sent via a BBC email without digging around the preferences.
It does seem a bit of crazy way to do things but I quite like it and means I’m not watching and replying to emails all the time. Now I just have to wait for the Thinkpad X220 to be fixed…

Why you should go to the Mozilla Festival

mozilla festival poster

Just in-case you had any reasons why you shouldn’t be at the Mozilla Festival? Here’s a whole bunch of reasons why you should be there. As most of you already know, we’re running the Dj and Vj Challenges during the Mozilla Festival event in association with Future Everything, Mozilla and BBC R&D.

We’re going to explore possible futures in the fields of Dj and Vj cultures with a aim to go live with something next year at the Future Everything Festival.

The whole event is at my previous college (Ravensbourne) which moved to its new location next to the Dome in North Greenwich. I’ve never checked out the new look college but if its anything like the new Salford University in Media City UK it looks to be something special and a great place to do a challenge like this.

Of course you want to be part of this… So why not sign up now and I’ll see you there in just under a months time…

 

 

A hackday for Djs…

Recently I’ve started thinking its time for a hackday around djing… And BBC R&D should be interested in the idea. So instead of writing a paper I started writing a presentation quickly giving an overview of some of the justification why I felt a hackday was a good idea and what aspects of djing could do with hacking…

A lot of people have said, but surely there’s already music hackday… why would you feel the need to do something around djing…? Surely that fits into music hackday…?

Well yes it could do, but music is maybe too broad for a dj hackday… On slide 2 and 3, I push the idea of djing and recorded music oppose to making music. I’m quite rude about Alberton live which I don’t mean to, just think there’s so much more to the future of djing that making music.

I hope to improve the presentation which was done mainly for Social Media Cafe Manchester. There was quite a bit of insulting vinyl and thats not my aim really, and theres a lot more thinking around feedback mechanisms for djs which I need to add. Anyhow, you can read the PDF on slideshare.

First steps in Media City UK

Media City UK

Usually on Fridays I tend to work from home or rather from a lovely tea place (called North Tea Power) in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. Unless of course I’m required to be in for a good reason.

However my boss suggested I might want to try working from Media City this week? I thought about it and come last Friday morning after seeing my NHS nutritionist, I took a ride down to Media City.

Entering Media City was a little confusing mainly because I was riding and had to find a specific car park with spaces for BBC Staff. I found the right car park after a while and parked up in a car parking space. I’m really hoping they sort out proper motorcycle parking because I don’t really like the idea of parking my scooter in a massive car parking space. Car drivers have a tendancy to run over motorcycles and to be fair I don’t really want to use up such a big space. I don’t believe it will always be like that, thankfully.

Adhoc desks

After wonder out of the Car park and along to the BBC buildings (Dock, Bridge and something else) I headed to Dock where R&D North will be based. I was greeted by a friendly smile from BBC Workplace security guards. A lot of the security from Oxford Road are in the new Media City office, so its a familiar faces instead of whole new faces.

In the building, I can’t really express the feeling of new and shiny but at the same time the feeling of home. There’s a lot of strange but bold shaped furniture but I like the way its all pretty easy to move about and reconfigure. Most of them also include power points and Ethernet which means there very useful as places to plug in and get some work done.

Power and Ethernet everywhere

I was sat on one such table and had a couple of adhoc meetings with people on the desk. Nothing major just a couple of quick chats about upcoming projects… The furniture suits it perfectly. I know they won’t be everyones cup of tea but there pretty good for me.

At this time there is wifi but its locked down using 802.11x, which I have quite a bit of experience with when Ravensbourne College did the same 10 years ago. I didn’t really bother to see if I could get it working with Ubuntu directly but this guide makes it sound easy enough. There should be public-ish wifi at some point soon, but not yet. And of course R&D will have there own network along with there own wifi.

There’s some really nice touches like the welcome to your meeting room card, meeting room names based on BBC TV shows and the sometimes slightly odd wall paper

Its funny because Media City just like New Islington needs shops and services. Right now the Lowry outlet mall is the only place to get drinks or food but that will change. Talking about Food the restaurant isn’t bad, can’t quite see how it will be big enough for everyone once they move in but I guess there’s always the idea of having other food places in the other buildings. And of course there will be the usual food/drink outlets flocking into the area at some point.

I’ve added Media City UK to Wovox.com but so far its struggling with my picture uploads and the rotation. Hopefully I’ll get the shots on there pretty sharpish.

Our public gardens

The public zone is pretty nice and there’s plenty of seats for the summer months. Its nice having the tram so close but I do wonder how it will be day in day out. I’m already looking forward to riding it so I can finally regularly read my kindle and mix on pacemaker. But I don’t fancy some of the delays I’ve heard in the past. This is certainly why I’ll keep my scooter for those days when I need to get there quickly or the tram isn’t working so well.

The balcony

The Balcony areas look great and alot more useful than the ones at White City. I can’t wait to get some wifi out there and maybe a run of power and work out there all day during the summer months. Actually surprised there’s not already power of some kind out there?

Don’t get me wrong not everything is perfect, but I actually like the colour scheme and the general feel of the place. I’m still wondering how it will be when you have to run across to the canteen during the rainy months. Everyones skeptical about the hot water taps but I’ve seen and used them in Germany and Holland in hotels, and they are extremely effective and always hot when I need to use them. The lack of microwaves in the coffee area is a pain but they have there reasons.

Dock House signs

I’m sure things will change when it comes to Media City but I guess I won’t really find out till I’m settled in properly, which looks to be pretty soon. We missed the 1st wave because our floor wasn’t done for various reasons but we’re in the 2nd wave and we got our induction next week.

Exciting times… (you can see the whole set of photos on flickr in this set)

Beyond HD: 8K Super Hi-Vision

People have a hard time understanding what I do… But to be honest I have a harder time explaining what I do but usually I explain I work for BBC Research & Developement, that usually gets either a oh ok I didn’t know the BBC had a R&D department, oh so your like a TV researcher? or finally whats R&D?

Usually by the time we get to the 1st one, (I didn’t know the BBC had a R&D department) I spin off a load of examples of what kind of things R&D has been instrumentally involved in the past. One of the many examples is Freeview HD and Freesat HD. So usually we get around to the question, so whats next?

I usually have to caveat this prediction with this is just looking at Screen technology and not much else. Super Hi-Vision which is a area of work BBC R&D and Japan’s NHK have been working together on…

Well finally Sharp just built a 85inch LCD TV to display Super Hi-Vision signals.

While Japan’s NHK has been working on the successor to HDTV, Super Hi-Vision, for years, there haven’t been any direct-view HDTVs capable of showing its full 7,680 x 4,320 pixel resolution until this prototype unveiled today by Sharp. Its 103 pixels per inch may be just a fraction of those found in some of the pocket displays we’ve seen at SID this week, but that’s still far more than the 36ppi of a 60-inch 1080p HDTV. If estimates are correct, we’ll still be waiting until around 2020 for that 33MP video and 22.2 channel sound to actually be broadcast, although there’s a possibility of some demonstrations happening during the 2012 Olympics.

Manchester’s first Northern Quarter street party (a R&D viewpoint)

The Official Northern Quarter Street party

Manchester’s Northern Quarter was transformed into a massive street party for the northern quarter hipster crowd yesterday. Billed as an alternative to the royal wedding It was all over the press which was great [men][guardian][cubicgarden].

With the help and support of Madlab, the BBC North ran a gaming wonderland during the street party.

The gaming wonderland included 2 wii’s running wii sports and a early glimpse of BBC R&D project called Virtual Maestro or Kinect Orchestra.

Wii Bowling

On the wii’s we had bowling running and the scores of everyone who played was put on the board just like they do on top gear with lap times. We had a total of 40 players put up there scores over the hours of play. Ages ranging from 8 to 55, but the winner of the day was Rachel Norris with a high score of 188 over 10 rounds. We will be contacting Rachel with her prize. There was some controversy with some of the players as they claimed a score of 210 but as it wasn’t seen by any of the team, we had no choice but to question it. So maybe Helena Rice will also receive a slightly lesser prize too.

Conduct

Virtual Maestro, an installation we’re developing with the BBC Philharmonic. Using a Microsoft Kinect and some custom code, a person is able to ‘conduct’ the BBC Philharmonic in glorious HD video and 3D surround sound using nothing but their arms to control the tempo and dynamics of the piece…

Conduct

The Virtual Maestro or Kinect Orchestra will be back soon for the Manchester International Festival in July. But at the street party it went down very well with lots of people trying it out. Lots of photos can be found on Flickr. On the version we removed the HD video and 3D surround sound but it didn’t stop the public interest in the system.Conduct

As Max said in the r&d blog post,

As well as being brilliant fun for the public to play with, demos like these are a great way to illustrate some the technical work that happens here at the beeb.

Not only did we have lost of interest in the bowling tournament and the virtual maestro, but we also had people asking about BBC R&D, Madlab and BBC jobs.

Although it was a bit of a solo effort (no disrespect to Andy, Nicole, Hwayoung and Dave as there help was great and very much needed) it was worth it. We had maybe about 150 people come through our ground floor madlab space, which isn’t bad for a bank holiday.