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What is Perceptive Media?

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Ian Forrester Ian Forrester | 14:55 UK time, Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Perceptive Media has not been formally explained, only mentioned in passing here.

However, outside the formal channels of BBC R&D, there’s been much talk about the concept of Perceptive media.

What it is, what it enables and its potential impact on traditional broadcasting.

In February this year, I gave a brief talk at Manchester’s Social Media Cafe. It was very early thinking from some of the people in BBC R&D north lab mainly myself and Anthony, but was written up by Martin Bryant journalist at the Next Web, who spotted the potential in the idea.

“The bbc is experimenting with perceptive media and it could transform tv forever” – reading the headline which was a little sensential but understandable

He was not wrong, the excitement around this combination of technologies was clearly a interesting proposition. Since the article came to light, we’ve had a large number of people inquiring to know more about the concept.

It became clear we needed to demonstrate what we mean when we say the words Perceptive Media. As the examples we were pointing to were all lacking in different areas. There was also alot of confusion between Perceptive media, Pervasive media and Personalised media. Clearly time to move from concept to prototype.

What is Perceptive Media?

From my own words,

“Perceptive Media, takes narrative back to something more aligned to a storyteller and a audience around a campfire using internet technologies and sensibility to create something closer to a personal theatre experience in your living room.”

Perceptive Media adapts the story to the audience without them having to explicitly interact with it, it uses information about the audience to adapt the story within a scope defined by the storyteller.
Once you start to see narrative as a set of variables its easy to see many other opportunities. What Perceptive Media trys to do is remove the broadcast technology barrier between the storyteller and the audience. It takes advantage of the implicit and explicit data we all generate, without triggering a privacy problem.


Perceptive Media can fit well with the BBC remit of inform, educate and entertain.

  • It can makes our stories more relevant to the audience.
  • It cam enables alternative learning styles to be accommodated in a single programme
  • It can stretch our audience’s horizons by introducing challenging elements or take our audience on new journeys

Early examples

To date most of the work in this area have been unsubtle. For example Take this Lollipop, the Facebook app which was big news late last year, would use your personal social data to fill in the blanks within a strict storyline. Its use of the technology was in your face and unsubtle. The experiment we created is much more subtle and it should almost feel like a tradional audioplay.

Most people may not even notice and assume it was selected by the storyteller in advance. But the effect of having your town’s landmarks weaved into the narrative in a intelligent natrual way, we think could add to the overall engagement level in a way which storytellers have been trying to do for decades with interactive media.

Perceptive media isn’t interactive in any way but it does build on many of the interactive media concepts before. Storytellers use the skills found in games narrative designers, in understanding how to expose more of the fictional world they have created to the audience.

Research questions

Our first prototype is an audioplay called "Breaking out."

The audioplay throws up a number of research questions including theories about media bubbles, media consumption, audience experiences and the shared experience. All things we seek to uncover using our prototype and the short survey which follows it.

No matter what you feel about broadcasting it has been with us for over 100 years and the BBC has been at the forefront engaging, educating and entertaining whenever possible. With thoughtful uses of Perceptive media we can re-imagine media and make it highly relevant without taking the narrative off the rails. Taking the best parts of Internet/IP technology and the ability to broadcast to many people in a timely fashion.

We urge you to listen and give us your honest feedback after hearing the audioplay, we will publiclly feedback some of the points you make and ultimately it will help us shape this new and exciting format into the future.

Perceptive Media is one step closer to reality

If you are interested in covering Perceptive Media from a Media point of view, please contact us on Press.rd@bbc.co.uk


  • Comment number 1.

    So far I have always seen "relevant to the audience" to be a signal that a programme is going to be patronising dumbed down twaddle for a lowest common denominator audience that cannot grasp anything outside their own experience.

    Is your research going to improve this?

    A link to "Breaking Out" would be useful.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hopefully you have gotten the chance to play the "Breaking Out" demo/prototype now and hopefully given us feedback via the form at the end. if not the URL is https://www.futurebroadcasts.com

    I personally see "Relevant to the audience" as a two street. You can show them stuff which is just more of the stuff they want to see (enter the Media Bubbles theory) or you can use that as a base to challenge that person.

    For example, you can imagine a science programme which reconises your a PhD student and reveals much more indepth information. The kind of depth of information which might be lost on most people.

    The research will help inform the technology and user experience for Perceptive Media and what ever it transforms into...

  • Comment number 3.

    Ideally, I'd think, perceptive media would be able to 'engage' with the audience much as a good storyteller does -- taking subtle body cues to indicate interest or boredom and using them to tweak the pace and subject matter and language to keep them interested.

    By the way, I think this article is desperately unclear and in need of rewriting.


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