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Prototyping Weeknotes #24 (23/07/10)

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Chris Godbert | 16:33 UK time, Friday, 23 July 2010

The week starts with an all team meeting with Matthew, it's our chance to give feedback on the departments plans and strategy. Some of us are spending this week defining the second screen work area once and for all. We're doing a research trawl for existing and new projects inside and outside the BBC, we're consolidating all the ideas we've had or been told about, we're gathering research requirements and we're drawing the tech landscape. Tony's back from his trip and straight away gets stuck into getting the mind-reading headset working; Theo is continuing with some wire framing for an iPad passive display idea. We've received more positive feedback on Twitter Zeitgeist, appropriately enough, in the form of tweets.


Our new lead engineer Paul starts today. He's thrown straight into an all team stand-up and has to listen to what I'm sure amounts to a bewildering set of updates and blockers across all our in-flight projects. From there we dive straight into our daily second screen catch-up; nothing much to report yet. Theo's made a few alterations to the Digital programme guide interface for channel changing for Chris B to implement. Chris N and Mark are battling with some frustrating DNS related issues which are preventing them pulling their end-to-end demo together. Vicky is writing something for the Guardian PDA blog (BBC Builders) and writing up the dozens of ideas from the Springwatch workshop, grouping them into categories, types of activity and how near or long term they are. Tristan heads over to W12 to chat about new forms of content and dinosaurs; George returns from W12 with a new set-top-box.


We get a demo of the work Sean and Sam have been doing on top of SynchTV. There's a simple http client with some on screen timing info; just need to add some 'now playing' information and that's the spike wrapped up. Tristan and I are ratifying the existing project research for Second Screens into a matrix. Translated that means we put lots of post-its on top of other post-its in an attempt to cluster things. It's only a quick scan of the competitive landscape but there seem to be some patterns emerging. Chris N and Mark demonstrated the latest RadioDNS work to some senior stakeholders in Audio & Music, who were very enthusiastic to see this working. They've managed to get it running on some commodity hardware using some complicated networking jiggery-pokery. Sean and Theo meet with the Stephen Neal (Technical Director) of The One Show to talk about their production workflow, TIPS running order and scripting system and the potential data outputs we might take from that to enrich user services. They'll be going back to observe a transmission in the next couple of weeks. Fraser and Brian (from the UX prototyping team) came in to meet Vicky and Chris B, they're going to take our designs and back-end service and replicate the TV guide in HTML5, on another device - something more low-end.


Tony has been spending time getting to know the Emotiv Epoc headset. He is training the system to recognise easily repeatable thought patterns. So far he has managed three (well technically four) states; push which will send an on/off signal, lift which will send channel up, and drop which will send channel down (the fourth state is inactive i.e. relaxed). The idea is to get the system to control a set top box with a simple single button remote interface. Maxine has been digging up research and examples of what else is being done in this area, including the people at Lancaster who built a mobile game using the Neurosky headset as the controller. It's the last day of the Second Screen scoping, everyone's in and we spend the morning reviewing our research and ideas. After lunch we have 2 hours to come to a shortlist of possible projects. It's hard going but we manage to cluster some, throw some away and park some ideas and we're left with 5 or 6 possible projects; some near-term, some longer-term, some that we could do right away, some that need a bit more working up. That's the next stage.


Chris B has got his iPad programme guide connected to MythTV via the XMPP relay. Sean and Duncan have been tinkering with the XMPP remote and can now switch MythTV on and off from the web controller - we are the living room of the future personified. Vicky and Libby pop by to talk about the NoTube work they're doing and Theo and Akua have re-factored the stock cupboard. Tony is spending today and the next few days figuring out how to actually connect the headset to a real device; George has spent the day in 6 consecutive conference calls. So, how has Paul's first week been? "I've mainly been reading, getting access to all the bread-and-butter stuff like servers & source control, asking the traditional dumb newbie questions. It's all going well so far". That'll do nicely.


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