Hi I’m the senior technology architect for BBC Sport Online. Regular readers of this blog will know that Connected Studio has been a hot topic over the past year with most areas of BBC Online having a turn.

It’s gone particularly well for my team, Sport, where 40 ideas from the initial sessions have been whittled down to the four strongest to take through to pilot stage. This blog summarises each of these projects and gives you the chance to let us know what you think.

Pilot phase means these projects have been prototyped for testing. This means, with the exception of Virtual Crowd at the Champions League final, we’re unable to offer them on the BBC Sport site. Hopefully, the descriptions of the pilots here provide enough to whet your appetite though.


Pilot One: Virtual Crowd by MadeByPi (indie)

Share your views using the 'happy', 'shocked', 'sad' and 'angry' buttons against each live text entry

The Virtual Crowd pilot allows users to interact when live football matches are underway.

If you use the BBC Sport website or apps on a Saturday to access the latest football scores you’re probably not aware that you’re one of about a million doing so.

Virtual Crowd provides opportunities to share your feelings on a match or sport related incident with others on the site.

Users can pick answers to questions such as ‘Who do you think will win the Arsenal vs Manchester United match today’ by simply clicking a button. It’s simple and just takes a few moments to do.

See online attendance and choose your preferred team and outcome

The web pages then show the combined (aggregate) view of all who’ve taken part - the ‘virtual crowd’ - demonstrating the overall split of allegiances and support levels of fellow site visitors and fans.

Information gathered will also be delivered as data visualisations as part of the event coverage to provide a unique and playful archive of the nation’s sporting reactions.

BONUS: On the evening of Saturday 25 May this pilot will be available for use during the Champions League final. There’ll be two pages that replicate pages on the BBC Sport site, but with extra ‘Virtual Crowd’ features. You will be able to access the pilot on this link. 

Pilot Two: Pocket Pundit by Aerian Studios (indie)

Add game analysis to BBC Sport video clips

Pocket Pundit adds analysis features to the Sport sites video player. Users can express their opinions on a sporting event by bookmarking, clipping and annotating selected video clips.

The concept provides a simple tool set similar to that used by pundits on TV. Users can then record and share their analysis with friends and other interested users via social media and on the BBC Sport site with an aim to generate debate and encourage interaction.

Pocket Pundit can work with any sport and can be used whilst the game is live or after in ‘catch-up’ mode.


Pilot Three: Sport Companion by Pobl Creative (indie)

Delve deeper into a football match or other sport event using a responsive, interactive page

A big question in the broadcast world is how to make use of the ‘second screen’ – the smartphone, tablet, or laptop that many have in their hands whilst watching TV.

The BBC Sport Companion provides a second screen experience to accompany live football matches you may be watching on TV. It also works when listening on the radio or on its own.

The companion provides a moment-by-moment view of the action offering rich stats and highlighting key events. The companion achieves this through clever use of data increasingly available at football matches, pinpointing the key action points in an event and in turn giving users a fuller, more entertaining experience as and when they want it.

BBC Sport Companion works across mobiles, tablets and computers and could also be expanded to sports other than football.


Pilot Four: Death of the Robot (BBC team)

Carefully selected tweets can provide great coverage of a football match or other sport

If you’ve been to a sporting event recently you may have noticed someone tweeting whenever something happened. Twitter has become an incredible source of coverage and opinion on sporting events big and small.

The Death of the Robot pilot brings the best sports coverage from Twitter to the BBC Sport website to enrich the live event experience, adding colour and vigour to the page to bring the stats to life.

The system has the ability to learn which tweets are most relevant and interesting for a particular football match or other sporting event. It then automatically provides the best tweets for every event.

These appear on every football match page alongside existing content such as the score, team information and match statistics. It adds an extra level of reporting, analysis, and opinion to these pages.

Performance is key for this project. WebSockets (powered by Node.js) are used to show tweets within seconds of them being made.

Penny for your thoughts?

So, over to you, which of these ideas appeal the most? The pilots have proved that all these ideas are achievable from a technology perspective. We’ll now start assessing whether they are of interest and relevance to the audience and while these are not the sole considerations we’d still be very interested to hear which ones you like via the comments.

Matthew Clark is the senior technology architect for BBC Sport Online.

You can read about the latest set of CBBC pilots on project manager Robin Cramps blog post.


This entry is now closed for comments.

  • Comment number 7. Posted by Robinho02

    on 4 Jun 2013 13:31

    Two, three and four all look interesting. Four's fine but what would it actually offer that the Twitter website doesn't? Three would be great, I can't see much of a downside with that. Two I think might be good for novelty but would possibly wear off, but it's difficult to know until I play around with it. I'm afraid I'm not a fan of the happy/shocked/sad buttons though.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by Matthew Clark

    on 28 May 2013 12:29

    Thanks for your comments Sam and Paul.

    Sam, well guessed! We started out trying to emulate the ball-by-ball text. We hoped Twitter would provide a richer version of ball-by-ball coverage that worked across more games and sports. However we found that Twitter content isn't consistent enough: because tweets came from many different users, the format and content varied too much to replace ball-by-ball commentary. Instead, we realised that this is much better at showing people’s analysis and opinion. In other words, it should sit alongside the existing ball-by-ball text, rather than replace it.

    Separately, thanks to all who took part in Saturday’s live test of Virtual Crowd (pilot one). We gained a fair amount of feedback through the questionnaire on the page. Over 90% said they would use the feature were it on the website for real, which is very encouraging.

  • Comment number 5. Posted by Paul Goodenough

    on 28 May 2013 09:11

    Hi all, I'm Paul Goodenough from Aerian Studios (the team behind Pocket Pundit). Thanks for all the kind comments! It's a fantastic project to be involved in and it's great that you're as excited as we are.

    The idea is that Pocket Pundit will work for the sports BBC do have the rights for (like the Women's Euros for example).

    Thanks all

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by Sam Woodrow

    on 25 May 2013 18:37

    I'm excited about all 4 of these!
    Given that the BBC doesn't have rights to premier league football clips would one be able to use the Pocket Pundit for football?
    It took me a few readings of Death of the Robot to understand it I think. The aim isn't to broadcast opinions from twitter but to construct a commentary from tweets that would make the ball by ball text from the Press Association redundant?

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Matthew Clark

    on 25 May 2013 15:40

    Thanks @Lettice, @Sean Kelly, that's great feedback.

    @Lettice, we'd definitely want to make pilot two available on tablets as well as PCs. It's yet to be decided how the sharing will work but it will definitely involve the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc)

  • Comment number 2. Posted by Sean Kelly

    on 23 May 2013 18:19

    The Sport Companion sounds like the best option that will provide an enhanced second screen experience.

    As has already been mention the Sky F1 Race Control brings a good second screen experience but the beeb could do a better job. A mix of video feeds, the live text updates service, realtime stats and analysis all provided via a tablet app would bring an extra dimension to your sport coverage. Especially if you can personalise the layout to suit what bits you want to see on-screen at the same time.

    The same sort of system could also be applied to news to bring enhance background information on the main stories or topics.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by lettice

    on 23 May 2013 14:57

    Pilot two and three look good.
    Pilot two looks excellent, assume that only works for PCs? Will be great fun for the user, how will user created clips be shared, youtube etc?
    Really loved the sky F1 race control as a secondary when watching f1 on the tv, very similar concept to pilot three, that will work well.

    Not a great social network fan to be honest, so pilot four is a big turn off for me. I find twitter comments from casual users most annoying, don't mind professional bbc jounalists/commentators doing it if its an easier way to communicate.
    The first pilot seems rather childish really and offers nothing to the bbc professional sport coverage.

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