Posted by Kat Sommers on , last updated

Phew! Our new room is a tad warm on the best of days, so this week's heatwave has had us throwing open the windows and fanning ourselves.

The week was dominated by a team away day on Thursday to Manchester, or, more specifically, the new MC:UK development in Salford Quays.

The R&D Prototyping team at MC:UK

The offices there are fantastic - a real open-plan office meets Mad Men vibe - and we all got a bit jealous of the brand spanking new equipment and furniture. There was also serious work to do, as we continued work on our work plan for the next few months, ready for Chris G and George to present at our workplan review next week.

Vicky had arranged demos with various teams, and we got to see kinaesthetic interfaces, IPTV prototypes, a connected and synced toy Dalek, the latest second screen trial and, best of all, a demo of technology that allows sound editors to mix 3D audio with a wave of their hand.

Here's Yves conducting a virtual orchestra.

Yves mixing 3D audio

It was a fun by tiring day. We all got to see what Vicky has to do every Monday when she commutes to London, and I conducted an extensive experiment into living off-grid (I left my phone at home).

Olivier liked it so much he stayed behind to meet more of our R&D North colleagues. George ended the day with a very useful RadioDNS telco.

As for the rest of the week, Roderick joined the team on Monday for his final placement as a trainee technologist, and will be working with Yves on the ABC-IP project for the next three months. He had to wait to meet George and Barbara, however, who were off to Turin for an FI-CONTENT meeting held at project partner Telecom Italia. On Wednesday George was on the booth at NEM in Turin, showing early prototypes and videos from the FI-CONTENT project.

Theo and Stuart went up to Manchester a little earlier in the week to run a UCD study on how users follow the news. They met with Vicky and Liz and started research sessions using test materials in the new R&D user testing lab in Dock House.

The sessions were useful in gaining a better understanding of the type of news people want to keep up-to-date with, and specifically news that is personally relevant, eg their interests and location. The tasks allowed the participants to design a news proposition that would appeal to their needs and current habits. We're due to analyse the findings, but already it's clear being able to "follow" news is definitely something for which it's worth signing-in. Early findings also indicate Dock House has a lovely view, but the air con is a bit aggressive.

The Programme List was opened to anyone and got a little tech press coverage. So far there's been some useful anecdotal feedback and quite a number of visitors. Tristan is hoping some of them stick around so we can get some good data about how they use it over time.

Andrew has been looking into frameworks that might help us quickly create web app interfaces such as Bootstrap, and Yves has been doing some performance tweaking on his automated tagger, and is still evaluating it against as many third-party tools as he could find. So far the results are promising. The next step is to write everything up properly and tune the algorithm to bump the evaluation results up.

Olivier, Chris L, Dan, Pete and Duncan worked on the last touches to the news linking prototype. Dan added a mock admin interface using CoffeeScript and JQuery, Duncan worked on the ability to add single articles, Pete helped develop the project's design thinking and Chris L has been bug squashing, tweaking the scoring algorithm and adding extra sources of news. He's also been generating cluster visualisations of business stories from BBC News to see if they're useful to Silver Oliver's semantic publishing work.

Projects are being tied up, and new ones are due to start, so people are taking the opportunity to develop potential ideas. Vicky's been talking to people about an audio recognition interface project, Olivier's been thinking about accessibility and captioning and how we are using them in our products and R&D projects, and Chris L started work on a small app that tracks the team's whereabouts.

And at the end of the week, Theo prepared for his holiday to Italy by asking Barbara in good faith to write down a few useful Italian phrases. He doesn't know it, but Barbara tells me there'll be a surprise when he tries to use one of them in particular... buone vacanze, Theo!

Some interesting links: