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Hacking the Next Gen Remote

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Ant Miller Ant Miller | 23:00 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

Over the past couple of weeks I've been popping up to Manchester, home of BBC R&D's North Lab, to join in an excercise in hackery that could, potentially, put some very interesting things in people living rooms a few years hence.  And I'm not talking about cheese and pineapple hedgehogs either (though I do like them.  A lot).

No, instead, the Audience Experience section has deployed the very excellent Maxine Glancy on a project to get engineers, scientists, developers and me to try and invent next generation 'remote technologies', for the next generation of services.  And to help us in this effort, she has drafted in the rather brilliant people from Tinker.it.  These wonderful people run workshops, courses and the like introducing people to the wonders of the Arduino the nice little open source physical computing device.arduino_kit2sml.JPG

Last week we were issued with developer kits from Oomlaut consisting of arduinos and a selection of components, and run through an intensive concept innnovation process. The kit's were surprisingly easy to get to grips with- I haven't done much in the way of coding since I properly stuffed up a completely impossible to compile (but utterly innovative) simulated robot environment about 15years ago, and in terms of electronics I can usefully cook my own car with a soldering iron, but with this kit I was creating computer driven lights within about 15 minutes.  I'd like you to studiously ignore the OS that laptop is clearly running and focus rather upon the very nice IDE that is sitting on the screen.  It really is very very lovely, and a joy to work with.

With these kits we were going to plan out and eventually fabricate a whole set of innovative ways that we could imagine 'remotes' of the future developing.

In order to come up with the innovative ideas for our remotes, the workshop (and I am comfortable calling it a workshop, because in spite of an absence of lathes, we really were making things) included a classic session of sticking up lot's of post-it notes. The amount of ideas thrown up was, as ever with this crowd, quite staggering.  It helped that not only did we have our own in house experts on new television interfaces, game interface design, and accessibility design, but we also pulled in developers from the TV Platforms area, and of course the brilliantly creative Tinker.it team.  Just look at that forest of post-its!

Dr Evans and a forest of ideas

This week, we reconvene to produce the physical prototypes or proof of concepts for our ideas.  This is going to be a lot of fun, and we'll blog the results as soon as we can.  We will I'm sure have more excellent photos of the team hard at work.  Inventing astonishing devices, and breaking them just as quickly.

(I should really point out that great as Tinker.it and Arduino are, they are neither of them by any means the only people doing what they do. There are lots of other cool people doing these sorts of things, and we hope to work with a lot of them) 



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