The power of narrative

Children at First Lubuto Library

While working on Perceptive Media, I came across many examples of narrative and the power of storytelling. Something which I’ve been trying to demonstrate in my presentations pointing at how little subtle things can have huge effects. Recently I saw this which reminded me I haven’t posted anything about it recently

Telling stories is not just the oldest form of entertainment, it’s the highest form of consciousness. The need for narrative is embedded deep in our brains. Increasingly, success in the information age demands that we harness the hidden power of stories…

…in four decades in the movie business, I’ve come to see that stories are not only for the big screen, Shakespearean plays, and John Grisham novels. I’ve come to see that they are far more than entertainment. They are the most effective form of human communication, more powerful than any other way of packaging information. And telling purposeful stories is certainly the most efficient means of persuasion in everyday life, the most effective way of translating ideas into action, whether you’re green-lighting a $90 million film project, motivating employees to meet an important deadline, or getting your kids through a crisis.

When I was training to be a designer, it was drummed in to our brains that you need to have a story to explain the product, service, etc… Without that story or narrative your on a loosing road. Not only that but you want to give them the least distractions as possible.

Stories, unlike straight-up information, can change our lives because they directly involve us, bringing us into the inner world of the protagonist. As I tell the students in one of my UCLA graduate courses, Navigating a Narrative World, without stories not only would we not likely have survived as a species, we couldn’t understand ourselves. They provoke our memory and give us the framework for much of our understanding. They also reflect the way the brain works. While we think of stories as fluff, accessories to information, something extraneous to real work, they turn out to be the cornerstone of consciousness.

Enough said… but if you do get the chance to read all 3 long pages, it will be worth it…

The making of Perceptive Media’s Breaking Out

I have been talking about Perceptive Media to many many people. Some get it some don’t… Everytime I try and explain it I use my perception to work out what method would work for them to understand it. When I did the talk at Canvas Conf way back in September I wanted to go into real depth about what we had done, but I had to explain the concept which takes a long while.

However now we got enough feedback, its time to reveal what we done to make it work. Theres a blog post coming soon on the BBC R&D blog but till then… Happyworm have done a excellent blog post explaining the whole thing down to some serious detail, including how to reveal the secret easter egg/control panel!

How to open the easter egg

To open the Easter Egg, Breaking Out must have finished loading and then click under the last 2 of the copyright 2012 on the bottom right. You’ll then have access to the Control Panel.

The easter egg, really unlocks the power of Perceptive Media like never before.

Everything is controllable and the amount of options is insane but all possible with the power of object based audio (the driving force behind perceptive media).

Breaking Out Control Panel

Practically just changing the fade between foreground and background objects can be a massive accessibility aid for those hard of hearing or in a noisy environment like driving a car? Tony Churnside is working on the advantages of object based audio so i won’t even try coming with conclusions on whats possible but lets say, the whole turning your sound system up and down to hear the dialogue could be removed with Perceptive media. Because of course perceptive media isn’t just the objects and delivering the objects, its also the feedback and sensor mechanisms.

Mark Panaghiston writes in conclusion…

The Web Audio API satisfied the goals of the project very well, allowing the entire production to be assembled in the client browser. This enabled control over the track timing, volume and environment acoustics by the client. From an editing point of view, this allowed the default values to be chosen easily by the editor and have them apply seamlessly to the entire production, similar to when working in the studio.

Web Audio API was amazing… and we timed it just about right. At the start of the year, it would not have worked in any other browser except Chrome. But every few months we saw other browsers catch up in the WebAudioAPI front and I’m happy to say the experiment kinda of works on Firefox and Opera.

One of the most complicated parts of the the project was arranging the asset timelines into their absolute timings. We wanted the input system to be relative since that is a natural way to do things, “Play B after A”, rather than, “Play A at 15.2 seconds and B at 21.4 seconds.” However, once the numbers were crunched, the noteOn method would easy queue up the sounds in the future.

The main deficiency we found with the Web Audio API was that there were no events that we could use to know when, for example, a sound started playing. We believe this is in part due to it being known when that event would occur, since we did tell it to noteOn in 180 seconds time, but it would be nice to have an event occur when it started and maybe when its buffer emptied too. Since we wanted some artwork to display relative to the storyline, we had to use timeouts to generate these events. They did seem to work fine for the most part, but having hundreds of timeouts waiting to happen is generally not a good thing.

Yes ideally we would want to be able to turn a written script into a Javascript file complete with timings. Its something which would make perceptive media a lot more accessible to narrative writers.

And finally, the geo-location information was somewhat limited. We had to make it specific to the UK simply because online services were either expensive or heavily biased towards sponsored companies. For example, ask for the local attractions and get back a bunch of fast food restaurants. But in practice though, you’d need to pay for a service such as this and this project did not have the budget.

Yes that was one of the limiting factors which we had to do for cost. And because of that we couldn’t shout about it from the roof tops to the world. However the next experiment/prototype will be usable worldwide, just so we can talk about perceptive media on a global stage if needed

As Harriet said, “OK, I can do this.” And we did!

Yes we did! and we proved Perceptive Media can work and what a fine achievement it is! This is why I can’t shut up about Perceptive Media. When ever we talk about the clash of interactivity and narrative I can’t help but pipe up about Perceptive Media, and why not? It could be the next big thing and I have to thanks James Barrett for coming up with the name after I had originally called it the less friendly Intrusive Media.

Not only did we prove that but it also proved that things off the work plan in R&D can be as valid as things on it. And finally that the ideology of looking at whats happening on the darknet, understanding it and thinking about how it can scale has also been proven…

I love my job and love what I do…

Happyworm were a joy to work with and the final prototype was not only amazing but they also believed into the ideals of open sourcing the code so others can learn, understand and improve on it. You should Download Perceptive Media at GitHub and have a play if you’ve not done so yet… what you waiting for?

Perceptive Media at TedXBristol

This is my high level talk I gave for TedXBristol.

The powerpoint is a little screwy on the presentation but generally you get the gist. Its also the ones where I decided to mock up a clip of the introduction of Flashforward to give a instant view of what Perceptive Media could do.

I’m waiting to see how long it is till the video clip is taken down off Youtube for possible copyright violations (which I feel is totally wrong and it fits under transformative works). I used the same videos at Oreilly Tools of Change to amazing effect, although I do feel with more time I should have found some text to change slightly. Maybe I’ll do this for the writer workshops at the end of the month?

I could swear I wrote up my feelings about TedXBristol somewhere already, but can’t seem to find it right now.

Either way, I’m very happy to see it online and look forward to the feedback from people interested in Perceptive Media. I thank the team for inviting me and I look forward to spending more time in Bristol in the near future and good to see Bristol growing its digital community…

Looper Directors Commentry

Looper poster

I heard about the director’s commentary for looper via my rss reader and though it was well worth a another watch anyway after watching it at the Salford Cinema Club first time.

The idea is quite simple… Download the extra track to your phone or mp3 player. Go to the cinema again and  watch the film again with the extra sound track.

Johnson has recorded a commentary track that is meant to be heard in-theater. (Of course, he strongly cautions against listening to it on a first viewing.) Considering that the new film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis has a much higher profile and a plot better suited to directorial untangling than Bloom, Johnson was besieged by requests from fans to repeat the experiment.

The Looper commentary is a totally different track than the version that will be included on the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release. This version is more technical and detailed, meaning don’t expect any anecdotes about how the actors got along or what the weather was like during filming. There’s an introduction up top that instructs users on how to sync up for the optimum viewing experience

The only problem I had was the introduction says to pause and unpause when the tristar logo comes up on the screen. In the UK it wasn’t Tristar, it was something else. Which caused a moment confusion and then a delay. It wasn’t too bad a delay but certainly meant seeing something then the director referring to it a second or so later.

The other thing is the volume… My headphones are a bit low and in the cinema it was sometimes hard to hear the director talking.

Overall it was a good experience and I would recommend it for films like Looper, Donnie Darko, Inception. Yes you can wait for the DVD/Bluray but its like having a friend nudging you with useful facts in the cinema.

Could this be a signal of things to come in the future? Don’t think so but if the syncing is cleared up it could open the door to much more interesting experiences and heck even personalised experiences layed on top of a mass medium. You could certainly see Perceptive Media in such a role…

What would Perceptive publishing look like?

TOC in Frankfurt

Perceptive Media was titled that because there was always a feeling the same concept could be applied to many more things than just broadcast. Although the BBC doesn’t really have a deep history in publishing, we do have a very deep history in narrative…

What would Perceptive Publishing look like?

My interview is actually worthy of a quick read

We have only scratched the surface and do not know what else it can be adapted toward. In BBC R&D, we watch trends by looking at early innovators. It’s clear as day that ebook reading is taking off finally, and as it moves into the digital domain, why does the concept of a book have to be static? Skeuomorphism is tragic and feels like a massive step back. But Perceptive Media is undoing the limitations of broadcast. It certainly feels like we can overcome the limitations of publishing, too.
Tools of Change for Publishing (http://s.tt/1nB8P)

As the readership starts to involve more electronic devices such as ereaders like the Kindle. Why limit the scope of the story to a single narrative? Why not have the narrative play out with local references? Change and morph depending on the time of the day? How about a story which truly challenges the way you think or see the world?

These are the type of questions I’ll be exploring at Oreilly’s Tools of Change Conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

Innovators Track: Innovations in Storytelling

Innovators Track curator, Sophie Rochester gathers together an incredibly talented group of creators in a panel devoted to innovations in storytelling! From the futuristic personalization taking place at the BBC’s Perceptive Media, to the masterfully interactive work of RH’s Dan Franklin, to the engagingly addictive genre fiction serialization of Plympton – this session will give you a glimpse at how some of our best technologists and storytellers are working together to craft ever richer “reading” experiences.

Ian Forrester, BBC
Dan Franklin, Random House UK
Justin Keenan, Plympton
Jennifer 8 Lee, Plympton
Moderated by Sophie Rochester, The Literary Platform

I look forward to joining Tools of Change Germany later today…

Perceptive publishing?

The reader

There was a reason why I decided to use Media oppose to TV or Radio.

The core concept of Perceptive Media can be applied at many different levels and different outputs.

How would Perceptive publishing work? Well if you imagine you have a ebook which can be read on a system which is also connected to the web and/or has sensors of its own. Imagine if that ebook reader has API’s which can exposes certain data to the ebook its self.

The way you hold the ereader, landscape, portrait, ambient temperature, time, geolocation, ambient noise, etc, etc. I have a feeling Perceptive Publishing may actually be a lot easier than Perceptive Broadcast…

You get the picture… and so do Oreilly who have put Perceptive Media into their Tools of Change conference in October.

I was interviewed about Perceptive Media and how it could work in publishing…

In the early days, Perceptive Media is being applied to broadcast technology. What potential applications for Perceptive Media do you envision in the publishing industry?

Ian Forrester: We have only scratched the surface and do not know what else it can be adapted toward. In BBC R&D, we watch trends by looking at early innovators. It’s clear as day that ebook reading is taking off finally, and as it moves into the digital domain, why does the concept of a book have to be static? Skeuomorphism is tragic and feels like a massive step back. But Perceptive Media is undoing the limitations of broadcast. It certainly feels like we can overcome the limitations of publishing, too.
Tools of Change for Publishing (http://s.tt/1nB8P)

TedXBristol live – Saturday 15th Sept

I have the pleasure of talking at TedXBristol next weekend. This follows another excellent talk at Canvas Conference on Friday in Birmingham.

The whole of TedXBristol will be streamed live, so you can get a idea of the richness of the talks yourself.

In the meanwhile there’s a cheeky little interview with me on the TedXBristol blog.

If your one of my lovely friends from around Bristol, I’ll be going for drinks and a meal on Saturday night. So get in touch if you want to join us…

Perceptive Media presentation slides

Its been less than 14 days since we launched our Perceptive Media prototype to the world and the feedback has been coming back thick and fast. As usual please keep it going and do pass it on to others who may have not heard it yet, even if they have no interest in the technology. Were as much interested in the general public view as technologists.
One of the unnoticed pieces which went up during the launch was our smc presentation for perceptive media.
Like most presentations I do, its low on text and you end up listening to what I say rather than reading the slides. This is great but not so good when you’ve not heard me (and Tony) talking.
So here’s a rough idea of what we talk about over the presentation…
  1. This presentation is for the concept of perceptive media
  2. You may not know but the BBC has a R&D department and they have been with the BBC right from the start. Actually a engineer was hired within the first 10 people to join the BBC. We do a whole load of research and development on questions the BBC faces in the near to long term future. We also feed into standard bodies such as W3C
  3. We use broadcast technology and broadcast to everyone in the UK. We do this because its in our remit and we must reach everyone who pays the license fee. It also provides the best value for the license fee
  4. Unfortunately Broadcast is one way communication and it can feel like your banging your head on a brick wall trying to reply or communicate back.
  5. The best stories are enchanting and engaging but how does this tally up with broadcast communication?
  6. I’ll like to take you back to the original story telling medium, before broadcast changed things… something like sitting around a campfire telling a ghost story. When telling that story, you would look at peoples faces and subconsciously change elements of the story.
  7. What happened? Broadcast happened, and the ability to tell many more people the same story became the default
  8. But in the move to broadcast (that one way medium) we forgot about context, body language, etc. These implicit actions and triggers which once would help form the narrative are no longer included.
  9. Take the comedy conundrum, every comedian has to face
  10. They choose to customise there sets with jokes and references to the local area
  11. Note the word customise rather than personise. The comedian is still in control and fit it in when he or she feels it approbate. They will also work against the typical view of the location if it works with material in there mind
  12. Variables are things which can change depending on other things in this case. But they each have rules, like maximum length. This is the same for narrative but the human mind can do the calculation so quickly on the fly
  13. Currently the state of the art in perceptive like media is centres around internet virals like Take this Lollipop. But we feel there unsubtle and frankly bit simple with the two way pipe of the internet. Now if you could do this on a one way pipe, wouldn’t that be interesting
  14. It needs to scale in a way which rivals Broadcast otherwise no one will take it seriously
  15. We this is possible with the incredible power the client side now has compared to previously.
  16. The power has been shifting to the user for many years with on-demand and other technologies
  17. We created with a bunch of other peoples help a prototype called “Breaking Out” to prove it can be done
  18. As you can see its not interactive, there is no feedback loops or anything like that. Its a customised experience
  19. Because there is clear difference between explicit and implicit feedback. We feel storytellers would love to work off the implicit feedback rather than the explicit stuff. Thats the stuff which drives your ghost story
  20. How? Well there is a ton of work and money going into adding sensors to your living room. From 3D cameras which see all to simple light sensors to adjust the picture brightness. We’re just talking about using that same data generated to customise a narrative
  21. Of course this all fits with the trend around big data sets, something the BBC has a lot experience in with BBC Backstage
  22. Back to the audience and narrative. Broadcasters have been losing the connection with the audiences. Lots of people have the TV on like the Radio. Its just on and if something picks up their ears, they will tune in or listen.
  23. There is a concept called the attention economy which you may know about and it gets talked about a lot. One of my favor quotes related to the concept is from John Doe on the film Se7en. Most of the examples fit in the sledgehammer category while…
  24. We feel we can achieve the same effect with little tickles here and there.
  25. Were talking about highly relevant customisation of narrative
  26. Which fit and run on the narrative rails setup by the author/storyteller
  27. When I watched Vanilla Sky first time, there was a scene which stuck a cord with me. I couldn’t work out what it was till the end when it was revealed they had re-imagined points of Tom Cruises memories (I won’t spoil it further)
  28. We feel we can strike a cord and reestablish that connection with our audiences which has been so badly missing
  29. Thank you!

Its of course, a lot better when we present it together and add all the additional stuff you won’t get in the notes. Plus it usually throws up a million questions which we have answers for…

Perceptive Media Launch at Social Media Cafe Manchester

If you’ve not experienced Perceptive Media yet, stop reading and go to futurebroadcasts.com to listen to the Breaking Out audioplay.

We’ve been sitting on Breaking Out for months slowly improving it as the browsers caught up with what we were trying to get them to do (WebAudioAPI is very topical at the moment). When we first started there was no way it was going to work in anything but the latest chrome. However things are starting to change…

Anyhow because of the wait to get things working correctly, we picked a date to release much later than expected. That date slotted right in between the end of the Euro 2012 and The 2012 Olympics. That date co-insided with SMC_MCR’s July event, the event where I first talked about Perceptive Media openly for the first time.

Elliot Woods

The event hosted at the excellent Cornerhouse Cinema was great. First up was Elliot Wood discussing the process behind his most recent digital art installation in Korea with studio Kimchi and Chips. Really interesting as there were some key points which matched some of our thinking. Mainly around openness and generative/organic systems.

Tony looking nervious

After the break came some announcements and then Perceptive Media with me and Tony.

We quickly ran through our reformatted presentation from the EBU in April, to lay the context for those who were not at the SMC event in February. Afterwards we went into a live demo of Breaking Out the audioplay.

Listening to Perceptive Media

The audience enjoyed the play and seemed to respond well to part of the play I’m not going talk about now.

After hearing the audioplay we switched to a panel discussion with me, Tony Churnside, Henry Swindell (from the BBC Writers room) and Sarah Glenister (the writer of the script from the BBC Writers room). We also had Mark Boas and Mark Panaghiston (from Happyworm, the developers) on Skype just in case.

The questions were coming thick and fast, at one point I counted about 20 hands up of the 60 strong audience. Lots of questions about the idea of Perceptive Media and quite a few about the storyline. It was great having Henry there because he laid it out from the writers point of view. Sarah jumped in and gave her point of view writing the script, something she just published on the BBC Writers room blog.

Sarah at SMC_MCR eventMartin hard at work

The event was a big success for ourselves, SMC and everyone involved. The feedback we got was great and we did record the event for the purposes of research.

Following on from the launch. We’ve watched the prototype spread to quite a few places.

The BBC unveils its first perceptive media experiment and you can try it now – Martin wrote this pretty much live from the event and its gone a few places. And it appeared on Techmeme for a couple of days.

The BBC opens up its first perceptive media experiment and you can try it out right now

BBC demonstrates revolutionary perceptive media – Nice

BBC perceptive media brings the next big thing in tv and radio

Angie chan who did the illustrations talks about the project

Metafilter goes off on Perceptive Media – Would love to join this debate but alas I’m not going to get involved in the debate.

Google+ also has a few comments

Experience Perceptive Media yourself

Starting bird

Following up from my posts (here) (here) (here and also now here) about Perceptive Media… I’m very proud to announce Breaking Out, our BBC R&D experiment into new editorial formats.

The prototype requires performs best on Chrome using the new WebAudioAPI, but does work in Firefox, Opera and Safari through a fallback solution (this will eat your bandwidth as it uses WAV’s rather than compressed audio like Ogg Vorbis and Mpeg3). I would suggest keeping memory and cpu intensive applications shut while running the demo because there some serious calculations happening client side.

But most of all I’d urge everyone to leave feedback, no matter how bad or good it is… Then share it around for other people to hear and experience.

Massive thanks to everyone involved in the project…

Writer: Sarah Glenister
Harriet: Maeve Larkin
Lift operator: Anthony Churnside
Producers: Anthony Churnside and Ian Forrester
Media Engine code: Happy Worm
Jplayer Audio engine: Happy Worm
Website code: Yameen Rasul and Matthew Brooks
Illustrations: Angie Chan
With special thanks: Sharon Sephton, Henry R Swindell, Maxine Glancy, Usman Mullan, Elizabeth Valentine and the BBC Writers Room

I’m also happy to say we will be making the Media Engine code available under the Apache License for all you guys who want to hack around with the concept yourself.

Actually there might be some easter eggs in the audio drama to find for those not interested in getting all dirty in the actual code.

A Perceptive on storytelling

As most of you know BBC R&D have a demo of Perceptive Media which we’ve shown a few places including the EBU in Copenhagen. Its been a hidden gem for a long while and its been amazing to see what people have had to say about the concept of perceptive media. Specially liked the two Brits sitting on the sofa talking about it.

We’re really hoping as many people will enjoy it and give their honest feedback to us (good and bad). But its not just the individual  feedback we would like to research, its the interconnected stories of how people tell others about it and how they explain it to each other…

How memes spread has always been high on my list of loves and to be honest should be high on the BBC’s research lists (if its not already?) In actual fact there is something about how memes spread and attribution which I think is very interesting and could be a new business model into the future.

Anyway… expect much more about Perceptive Media on the BBC R&D blog this month. In actual fact if you want to be first hear it and respond directly to people behind it like myself, the script writer, actress, coders, etc… Then you should make your way to the next Social Media Manchester.

I was reading about the domino effect on my Kindle via Instapaper the other day on the London Tube prompted after reading this tearjerker story. This bit really got into stuck in my throat, further proving that I’m just a sucker and massive romantic…

At the end was this bit…

Here’s the power of a story: someone hands me one, like a gift (I imagine it wrapped in shiny paper with the bow, the handmade letterpress card, the whole nine yards), and in that gift, I find parts of myself that have been missing, parts of our world that I never imagined, and aspects of this life that I’m challenged to further examine. Then—and this is the important part, the money shot, if you will—I take that gift and share it. In my own writing, sure, but the kind of sharing I’m talking about here is the domino effect: how I hear/watch/read a story, and then tell everybody and their mother about it, and then they tell everybody and their mother, and somewhere in that long line of people is someone who, at this exact point in their life, needed its message more than we’ll ever know.

The power of a story indeed…

You could look at this as a example of why Perceptive media isn’t going to work but actually I disagree. Someone (out there) has written a story which perfectly suits the medium but they don’t know it yet.

Perceptive Media presentation at the EBU, Copenhagen

Copenhagen

I really enjoyed my time in Copenhagen… It kind of reminded me of a combination of Berlin, Amsterdam and Stockholm. I had wished I had more time there for many reasons.

Copenhagen Archtecture

So what was I doing there? Well me and Tony Churnside were asked a while after that presentation at SMC_MCR by the European Broadcasting Union (they run the Eurovision song contest I’ve heard) if we would offer a unique look at a possible future for broadcasting. Originally we said no because the idea wasn’t fully formed (hence the early thinking) but it became clear we might have a demo which we could maybe show. That demo of course is still under-wraps and we hope to reveal it to the world soon enough (keep an eye on the BBC R&D Blog for more details). It was well received and it certainly got people thinking, talking and wanting much more. And yes it is Perceptive Media

EBU campfire reference

On top of doing the presentation and heading up a question and answer session with Tony, we got a good chance to see the rest of the summit and speak to many TV related people. Its amazing what our European public broadcaster friends are doing. Thanks to the always busy but super smart Nicoletta Iacobacci (who also uses troublemaker in her job title) from the EBU who was the one who invited us and made us feel very comfortable. Of course the amazing Mia Munck Bruns, who I had the joy of sharing my love for good cocktails with on the last night.

Cocktails in Copenhagen

We also got to see parts of Copenhagen but we were mainly in Ørestad. I could only see the one of the moutain dwellings  as talked about in the Channel4 documentary recently from a far, but it looked very impressive. And to be honest the architecture and design effort in Copenhagen was amazing… It was like walking through Stockholm or the pages of Inhabatit.

When we first arrived (our flight was 2 hours delayed) I had a massive headcold and couldn’t hear out of my right ear due to not flying well. But we walked straight into a session involving media study students and TV producers. It was run by Nicoletta and reminded me of when BBC Backstage invited the people behind UK Nova in to meet the BBC. The students explained there media habits and the TV producers tried to make sense of it all.

The thing which shocked me was the lack of twitter usage in Denmark. The students talked about using Facebook as we use Twitter. Google Plus never really came up ever. The 2/4 screens meme came up time and time again. And a few of the TV producers started getting irate why the students were treating TV like radio or as I prefer wallpaper.

They couldn’t understand why they have the screen on if there not watching it. Little disagreement broke out saying they should be watching what they broadcast. Well what followed was some ice words on both sides… As usual, as I’ve heard all my life. The students media habits were dismissed as early adopters. I asked if any of them created there own media rather than just consumed and shared? Very few did (maybe one) further indicating there not early adopters but just the norm.

Fantastic session along with

During the trip the EBU treated us to a series of lovely dinner including one at a amazing Opera Hall.

Opera House

Unfortunately the way to the opera hall was via boat which isn’t exactly great for me. But I made it even with Tonys teasing…

The rest of the conference was dominated by TV as you’d expect and there was some real interesting things from other public European partners including Äkta människor or Real Humans

In a parallel present the artificial human has come into its own. Robots no longer have anything robot-like about them. New technology and advancements in the field of science have made it possible to manufacture a product – a kind of mechanized servant – that is so similar to a real human that it can often be considered a perfectly good substitute. The Human Robot (HUBOT) have also given rise to new problems and dilemmas. Thorny legal questions have increasingly started to occupy people’s minds and are still waiting to be answered: Who is responsible for the actions of a hubot? Do hubots have some form of “hubot rights”? Should they be paid for their work? As an ever growing number of people form relationships with hubots, the boundaries between human and machine become blurred. When humans make copies of themselves, which are so close to the real thing they form emotional bonds, the questions arises – What does it really mean to be ‘human’?

Looks like one to watch for sure…

Great to experience Copenhagen and see that crazy bridge/tunnel to Sweden from the plane.

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…

A vision of Intrusive TV?

There is one sequence in the last episode of Black Mirror, which you got me really thinking (bear in mind there is tons of interesting subjects matters explored in the show)…

A long while ago I coined the term Intrusive TV for a technology which later got renamed to Perceptive Media. Without going into any detail, this is what I’m worried may happen if certain aspects of the technology behind Perceptive Media is taken to its extremes.

Without any details, you can still certainly get a feel for how scary a future were heading towards…

Hopefully YouTube/Google won’t take it down straight away… But if so, watch the whole thing and about 40mins in look out for the sequence when there’s not enough credit to skip or change anything. You will know which bit when you see it…

Oh no… within a few moments I got a email…

Dear cubicgarden,

Your video, Intrusive TV?, may have content that is owned or licensed by Channel 4.

No action is required on your part; however, if you are interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account for more information.

Sincerely,
– The YouTube Team

Oh well so much for that…