Playful IoT Futures unConference
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most interesting research topics on the horizon for BBC R&D. Given that the BBC is a broadcaster, how does it fit into the IoT? Most scenarios about the IoT tend towards smart cities, home energy management, transport and data value chains. All useful discussions, but it's hard for people to understand how it could benefit them personally or fit into their lives.
We are interested in how everyday interactions with media and entertainment can be amplified using connected objects and devices. The BBC is in the business of telling stories - so we want to know how the IoT can help us to do this better.
On November 7 we hosted the first Playful IoT Futures event and invited a range of experts to help us explore what the Internet of Things could mean for the BBC and our audiences. The video below gives a flavour of the event.
One of the questions I posed in the intro talk at the event was "How might we extend storytelling (broadcast media or games) beyond the screen into the physical world?"
Durrell Bishop of Luckybite led a session called 'Broadcasting through toys'. He talked about how toys are usually kept separate from the content of a film or TV show. He suggested how much more interesting it would be if we could tell stories through the toys. The group identified a need for "Digital connectors", like Lego blocks that have a physical connector that works across media brands so that toys can talk to one another. Children love to mix between worlds and create their own worlds around toys. They don't care that certain toys weren't designed to 'play' together. For instance, Star Wars and Harry Potter Lego should work together and kids will happily mix the two as part of their gameplay.
Natasha Carolan of Makie Lab led a popular session exploring how gaming and play can develop with interconnected devices and toys. Makie Lab produce custom 3D printed dolls and Natasha brought along a Dr Who doll to show the group. At the moment, Makie Lab are experimenting with hardware inside the dolls for interaction with digital games. The dolls heads were designed to perfectly fit the Arduino Lilypad. Makie Lab are looking at how online game play could modify the physical product - for instance if your virtual doll spends too much time in the fast food outlet your physical doll gets an inflated belly. Check out how the Makie community have been experimenting with hardware in their own dolls.
The unConference format worked really well for this event. The idea is that everyone participates in some way, whether that's by giving a talk or taking part in a discussion. It's all about the conversation, and in our case, we wanted to hear from the experts in the room about the challenges and opportunities for the future IoT. We had a great mix of people and the discussion flowed.
Unconference events tend to be pretty lively and fast paced. The session grid starts out blank and then attendees populate it with ideas without much/ any preparation. Our grid filled up within the first 15 minutes of opening - much quicker than expected.
The sessions ranged from demos and talks to a 'Walkshop' where the participants took the session outside the building to look for places where the network meets the world.
Image by Ian Forrester
For an idea of what it was like to attend the event see designspark.com
We'll be continuing our research along the theme of a playful Internet of Things and will be exploring some of the questions raised in the sessions.
More information about the content of the sessions will be made public over the next few weeks and a post from Jasmine Cox will follow about the prototypes she built and trialled at the event. She describes the trial as "a primary stage prototype for tagging media at live events, principally as initial research into attendee behaviour, but also to get everyone's imaginative juices flowing and promote playful discussion."