Thinklab

BBC Learning

Social Media Touch Surface Interface

Completion Date: March 2011

Project Details

The BBC produce several news broadcasts which involve the presenters apparently interacting with media such as static pictures, video and other data whilst a discussion develops.  In reality most of the interaction is rehearsed, staged and controlled by the editors and directors whilst the broadcast is happening.  Whilst this is acceptable from a viewer’s perspective it does not allow the presenters very much scope for dynamic interaction with news media.

The BBC have launched a series of social media feeds using Flickr, Twitter and Facebook which allow viewers to submit stories, comments and images relating to topical issues and they find that these comments can be posted as a show is being aired. Thus their current model for presenter interaction cannot take advantage of the dynamic and real-time nature of social media. 

The BBC approached the THINKlab to create an interactive table top which would give presenters the ability to directly manipulate this real-time information in a live broadcast studio setting whilst, at the same time, allowing the editors and directors ultimate editorial control of content off camera.

THINKlab developed a series of prototype touch screen applications which culminated in a bespoke Microsoft Surface™ multi touch application which allows presenters to select from a list of social media posts which have been pre-approved on a control terminal by the show editors.  The presenters can manipulate the chosen media using multi touch gestures such as stretch, rotate and move and the touch surface screen output is mirrored on the studios large display screens which viewers see. 

THINKlab has conducted trials in the BBC's North West Tonight studio in Manchester where presenter Gordon Burns and Assistant Editor Phil Smith were keen to test the new concept to see how they could work with it in a live show. As far as we are aware this kind of touch based interaction with social media in a TV broadcast has not been attempted before and the BBC are planning to use the touch surface in future live news shows.

 

Interactive learning environment for volcanic eruption mechanism exploration

Completion Date: March 2013 

Project Details

As part of a series of interactive learning programmes THINKlab was commissioned by the BBC Learning team to produce an interactive learning platform to introduce the science behind volcanic explosions. 

The Volcano Game platform features a 3km tropical island, with lakes and bays and a central volcano cone rising to 340m. It is a two player game that allows users to enter into the volcanic island using body gestures to change the parameters such as gas content, crystal content, silica and magma flow to affect the type and intensity of the volcano eruptions.

This touchless gesture interface is based on a depth sensor technology and OpenNI middleware SDK. Five different gestures have been implemented and more can be explored, these include leg, arm and torso tracking. The gesture interface is able to manage two different users and track their relative position to each other (understand if they swap places). 

This gaming platform will be part of the ‘tool kit’ for the BBC Learning events run throughout the year with audiences varying from children to adults depending on the subject matter.  The platform can be customised at different levels to present suitable data for each audience i.e:

  1. The gesture interface can be redefined to accommodate new, replacement or alternative gestures.
  2. The environment can be redesigned - including both the terrain shape and type of natural environment
  3. The game mode can be changed from 1st to 3rd person.
  4. The game storyboard:- different game play can be implemented, including game objectives and methods.

Interactive learning environment for wildlife exploration

Completion Date: May 2014

Project Details

As part of a series of interactive learning programmes THINKlab were commissions by the BBC Learning team to produce an interactive learning platform to introduce facts about animals and their natural habitat

This platform implements a “magic mirror” metaphor. A depth sensor with a HD camera is used to create the mixed reality environment were semi-interactive 3D models of wildlife are brought into the users space.

Through body gesture interface the user is able to query the system for interesting facts regarding the animal’s life and through the detection and tracking of the user correct placements within the virtual environment is possible allowing the virtual animals to interact with the user i.e. approaching, running away and an owl landing on the user hand.

This gaming platform will be part of the ‘tool kit’ for the BBC Learning events run throughout the year with audiences varying from children to adults depending on the subject matter.  The platform can be customised at different levels to present suitable data for each audience i.e:

  1. Type of virtual animal depicted.
  2. Facts about the animal.
  3. User query gesture.
  4. Virtual content for the environment (plants, animals, etc.)
  5. Platform storyboard, meaning an altogether different experience.

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BBC News Social Media Interface studio Install BBC News Social Media Interface studio Install BBC News Social Media Interface Surface Table BBC Volcano Volcano Simulation Game 1 Volcano Simulation Game