Rethinking Podcasting

Reinventing podcasting
Ok maybe less reinvent and more rethink?

I hinted at Perceptive Podcasting previously in a post about being busy. I have finally come out of that busy period and am UK bound as my passport is due to expire.

Just before the busy period, I drafted a post about Perceptive Podcasting and why it’s not simply another unique project. It went up on the BBC R&D blog recently which is wonderful because I can point to that rather than the other way around.

Perceptive Radio v1

Since we first launched the Perceptive Radio v1 in 2013 as a concept of what Perceptive Media (implicit interaction from sensors & data, adapting media objects) could become; the radio’s have always been a framework to explore further into adaptive object based media experiences. But we have always acknowledged the growing power of the smartphone and how it could be the container for so much more.

Even when we created the Perceptive Radio v2 with Lancaster University and Mudlark, it was modeled around an android phone and extending the sensors. The possibilities of IOT Storytelling with object based media was deep in my mind, along with research questions.

As a person who saw the revolution of podcasting in 2000, I was always interested in the fact its downloaded audio and generally consumed/created in a personal way, unlike radio in my view. I’ve also been watching the rise in popularity of podcasting again; heck Techcrunch asks if it could save the world 🙂

Of course I’ve started a few podcasts myself (recently Techgrumps and Lovegrumps) and love the fact it’s quite easy to get started and it can feel quite personal. I also found the diversity of podcasting quite interesting for example I’ve been listening to the guilty feminist, friends like us and risk, for quite sometime and find them fascinating every time.

Why a client for podcasts?

In 2017, you are seeing more webservices hosting podcasts like stitcher, (heck even Spotify is hosting some). At the server-side there is a lot you can do like dynamically change adverts, geo-fence media, etc. 60db are one such service doing nice things with podcasts but they are limited in what they can do, as they said in a comment on a similar post. But doing this all server-side is a pain, and tends to break the podcast idea of download-able audio (even if you have 4g everywhere), it feels more like the radio model of tuning in.

Imagine if you could do the server-side type of processing but on the actual device and even unlock the pools of sensor/data with the users consent? And imagine if the creators could use this in storytelling too!

Its Personal, Dynamic and Responsive without being creepy or infringing personal liberties, It adaptives to changes in context in real time. It dances with Interactivity and we are also exploring the value and feasibility of object based media approaches for engaging with audience. We believe that this offers the key to creating increasingly Immersive media experiences as it gives more story possibilities to the writer/director/producer. But also provides levels of tailored accessibility we have yet to imagine.

So many possibilities and its made in a very open way to encourage others to try making content in a object based way too.

Keep an eye on bbc.co.uk/taster and the bbc.co.uk/rd/blog for details soon.

The next web peers around BBC R&D…

Perceptive Radio v2
The second-generation experimental Perceptive Radio hardware. Credit: Martin Bryant / TNW

Its always great to have some of the work in the press, and see which bits they pick up on. But even better is when it gets framed along with other work, such as the ones happening around the same lab or similar fields.

In recent times, Ian Forrester has turned his attention to ‘Visual Perceptive Media.’ As we first reported late last year, this applies the same principles to video-based content.

For the first experiment in Visual Perceptive Media, the BBC worked with a screenwriter who created a short drama with multiple starts and endings. In addition to the variable plot, a number of different soundtracks were prepared, and the video was treated with a range of color gradings to give it different moods, from cold and blue to warm and bright.

Good to see the next web picking up on the effort we put into making all this very open. This comes from before my time at BBC Backstage but it certainly makes things easier to justify with us being a public organisation haven done things like Backstage.

One thing that struck me when talking to the people working on all of these projects was that they were using the Web browser as their canvas and working with free-to-use, open technologies like OpenGL, Web Audio, Twitter Bootstrap and Facebook React.

And what better end than…

Some of the most interesting ideas for how that might happen are coming out of BBC R&D.

Imagine if media could scale?

Variable Length Documentary

People always ask what I do at work or the BBC. I generally and quite flippantly say build the future. It may seem like a bit of a joke but theres quite a lot of truth to it too. One such area of research is around the future of media and storytelling.

I decided with colleagues after the perceptive radio,  the radio needed content of its own. This lead to the idea of a variable length documentary which was first showed at Sheffield Doc Fest, which would scale based on a number. That number could be time, movement, attention, or something else.

Responsive Radio is a new experimental way to make radio content more personalised, relevant and flexible. Responsive radio creates the story you want at the length you’ve time for. And this is just the start of a broadcasting revolution.

Imagine if Serial or any podcast could scale to fit your journey to work? Thats the level of personalisation were talking about here. Non creepy, and actually useful.

The responsive radio (as it became) morphed into a much bigger project and finally you can go experience it for yourselves at BBC Taster. http://www.bbc.co.uk/taster/projects/responsive-radio

Podcast’s 3rd era?

Myself and Chris were walking back from Sunday roast dinner, and we got talking about Podcasting. The current media darling is a thing called Serial.

I have always maintained that podcasting is different from radio and part of the confusion (as such) is radio shows using podcast distribution to deliver content. Most of the professional stuff is radio shows using podcasting distribution, which is a real shame. I remember my cry out for more British podcasts even.

…there were not enough amateur British Podcasts. I know theres the BBC podcasts and the Guardian podcasts which both have got a lot of success in this area but theres nothing like TwiT or Revision3’s series of video podcasts

Now of course that was 4 years ago and things have shifted. Chris pointed out the raff of amateur to professional media on youtube. But the big question remained…  what is the difference between a podcast and radio show?

Well I struggled to remember the arguments about podcasting when the BBC first did its podcast trial, to replay back at Chris. The verge video reminded me exactly what the point I should have made more clearly.

Its not about production, its about depth! I eluded to it but never actually said depth. With Radio you need to be broad, with podcasts you can be so niche it hurts.

Talking of niche audiences and podcasting, we launched the Lovegrumps podcast this weekend. Lovegrumps is like Techgrumps but about love, sex and relationships. Audio  only and wondering if audioboo, mixcloud or soundcloud might be better places to put the podcast?

If this is the 3rd era of podcasting, then its certainly time to evolve… Expect intro music and other production stuff next time.

Oh by the way, the verge are wrong. Perceptive Radio is clearly the future of radio… Just imagine what could be done with Perceptive Podcasts!

Official Perceptive Radio photo

Perceptive Radio on BBC Radio 4

Official Perceptive Radio photo

It finally happened… Perceptive Media  and more specifically Perceptive Radio got a mention on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours today. Now to be fair this isn’t the first time its been mentioned on the BBC but to have futurebroadcasts.com mentioned live on air, should increase the sample size for feedback which is critical for our research into Perceptive Media.

In usual style I made an archived version on archive.org. Although to be fair the You and Yours stays on iPlayer for about a year at a time.

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.

BBC Radio 4 Character Invasion day with Perceptive Futures

BBC Radio 4 are putting on a number of events on Saturday 29th March under the banner of Character Invasion day

Character Invasion is a celebration of character taking place over the course of one day – Saturday 29 March 2014. The day will have character at its heart combining an on-air exploration of the importance of character on BBC Radio 4, with a day of public events at all BBC sites which produce Radio Drama.

BBC R&D are involved and focusing on the idea of characters in the future. What are the possibilities for characters in a future which looks more perceptive? Of course we’re not alone, there will be some other key people from across the industry debating the question too.

At this session, you’ll hear from a panel of fantastic guests including Adrian Hon (CEO, Six to Start and Technology writer for the Telegraph), Julius Amedume (film director, writer and producer), Sarah Glenister (author of Perceptive Media’s Breaking Out), Henry Swindell (Development Producer for BBC Writersroom) and Anna Frew (PhD student studying the book and narrative in the new era of the internet).

With a line up like that, you know your going to get some great debate, plus there might be a chance to see/hear the Perceptive Radio in action.

The sign up process is a little weird, so you need to register by Thursday 13th March and then you will be notified later if you got a ticket or not. The event takes place in Media City, Salford Quays.

Hope to see you there… its going to be a blast

Storytelling from Thinking Digital 2013’s stage

Ian on Stage at Thinking Digital

Thanks to Documentally for the picture

Thinking Digital 2013 for me started on Monday with a lovely dinner with a number of other people in Newcastle. I find its always worth booking in and getting to Newcastle/Gateshead a day early so your not flapping around and carrying luggage. But this time I specially need the time to make sure Perceptive Radio was fine. Anyway at the dinner I met quite a few people including Aral, Aza and others.

The next day I spent most of the morning making sure Perceptive Media was working as it should. Surprisingly it everything worked as it should and brushed up on my presentation before heading to the Thinking Digital workshop Harnessing the power of story

Great leaders beginning with the Alexander the Great, have long known the emotional power of story in helping engage people behind a cause or a company. Today more than ever in our chaotic world of information overload, facts are not enough.  We want something that’s meaningful, a message that is compelling and memorable. Similarly, understanding our own story helps us to relate to others and the world around us, to understand how we can contribute and what drives us beyond a paycheque.

The course was fully booked and seemed to be filling up with even more people.

Mari talked about the hero’s journey in some depth and at the end split the group up into 3. Those wanting to exploit stories in presentations, those who wanted to use stories to get a better grip of there careers anwent for the d those wanting to better their lives. I originally signed up for the first and through the process of the hero’s story decided actually I’d like to see how this could help my career but by the decision point decided actually I’ll see what if anything this could do for my life.

I found the whole thing really interesting but the details I’m not going to reveal in my blog sorry… There was something very strange about the instructor. She seemed to know everything about me, I couldn’t work it out. Had she gleamed all this from our brief chat on the phone and by googling me? If so I’ve been far too public 🙂

Later it turns out that I did know her but hadn’t recognised her till she wore her glasses… I say this because it slightly freaked me out. But only slightly… By Wednesday I was running on adrenaline and you needed to be for the 7am start.

I love Thinking digital except this time I missed most of Wednesday preparing for my time on stage with manager Adrian. If it was just 5min talk it would be fine but doing a couple of workshops in lunch with something your not certain will work as expected was scary.

You know how they say don’t work with young children or animals? Can I add robots and machines to the mix. The biggest problem I had was the wifi which required you to press I accept to get online. How do you do this on a device which has no screen at all? On top of that each client was isolated on the network, so you couldn’t ssh, rdp, vnc, or anything into another machine. This made setting up the radio for the environment very tricky (to be honest I was tearing my hair out by 9:30pm)

Anyway I solved the problem and I decided the wifi leases were maybe long enough to allow me to take the radio offline. So I did and during the talk on stage I did the grand reveal of the perceptive radio. After the grand reveal and Adrian finishing up, I didn’t have the heart to grab it in the middle of Maggie Philbins talk, so shes got it on the counter while she talks about Tomorrows World. Ironic don’t you see…

After the talks, I took the Radio downstairs for the public demos. There were only meant to be 2 but due to demand we stretched it to 3. Anyway I can happily say they all went extremely well, with me showing some of the basic functionality and of course playing the whole Breaking Out play. Questions were well received and lots were new to do with the radio. Just enough adrenaline to do an audioboo with Documentally.

Perceptive Radio and Me

You don’t want to miss the Audioboo Documentally recorded after I finished the workshops, to be fair I sound knackered but it still came across well. Cheers for the photo too 🙂

I won’t lie, once my commitments were fore-filled and alittlebit had gotten me a very lunch (bless her motherhen reactions), I crashed as the last of the adrenaline left my body. The live lounge was my paradise for the next 20mins (dark with a projection of what was happening next door) while I caught up with some nap time. Kate assure me I wasn’t making a sound, so thats great. That power nap really did something to me and I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Perceptive Radio on BBC Click

Perceptive Media on BBC Click

I’m very happy to say Perceptive Media/Radio made it on to BBC Click today. Its short and sweet but so nice to hear its inspired even more people.

Greg from Mudlark explains the idea and then I chime in later with a little more information. Its right at the start, so go download the podcast and let us know what you think.

Perceptive Media isn’t about algorthms alone

BBC Perceptive Radio

From the Independent today… something which sounds like a episode of Black Mirror

The most cunning trick of the internet is that, with the help of some clever algorhythm-tracking piece of technology, it follows  our online behaviour and reflects  it back to us in the browsing choices it offers.

Dismayingly, radio may soon be playing the same game. A new invention called the Perceptive Radio, unveiled at the recent Thinking Digital Conference, is said to be able to respond to the kind of device listeners are using and to where they live. It will then adapt its output to include, for example, mentions of their local town, or the weather outside.

The aim, according to the team behind Perceptive Radio, is to provide “a more immersive experience” and, it almost goes without saying, to encourage diversity.

It sounds creepy to me. The very last thing I want from my radio is that it is customised to me and reflects my own world. True diversity lies in difference, not similarity.

Terence Blacker misses the fact Perceptive Media isn’t about algorithms alone. Its about giving the storyteller freedom to tell stories which make sense to the audience at the time. It also considers the space and place where the story is being told.  It doesn’t simply reflect your world back at you. I would say its a very lazy writing to do so, you also fall into the trouble of the mediabubble theory and finally how do you cover a group or audience?

Luckily Bex jumps in with a comment…

Interesting re ‘Perceptive Radio’. I was at the launch at Thinking Digital, and went to the lunchtime session as had somewhat of the impression that you give here – that it would become yet another ‘echo chamber’ – something I’m always seeking to avoid – but it seems more about intelligent reactions (e.g. volume changes if you’re singing along), and augmented information dependent upon location. I’m sure as with all other tech, can choose to enable, customise or disable..

Perceptive Media is smarter than machine algorithm alone. It empowers the scriptwritter and storyteller…

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…

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