New Sport Pilots from Connected Studio

Senior Technical Architect

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.


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