Research & Development

Posted by Laura Harrison on , last updated

Over the past few years, through BBC Connected Studio, our priority has been exploring new digital storytelling formats and carrying out experiments with tools that could deliver these. To do that we've licensed third party tools and we've trialled and tested ones we have built ourselves in BBC R&D. We've opened these up to in-house production teams as well as some artist communities involved in Culture UK.

Now we've brought all of these services together in one place - MakerBox.

BBC Connected Studio - MakerBox

We want people to be inspired and learn from people who have already been playing, experimenting, and creating things with these new technologies.  MakerBox connects curious minds to a community and resources that can help them to deliver the future of digital storytelling.

We are great believers in the immense power of a community of practice - those that "have passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they regularly interact." BBC Research & Development has the same vision and regularly collaborates with partners through academic research or open innovation events with the creative and tech sector.

This kind of people-powered community allows the network to grow without boundaries, engaging different audiences with different levels of skill. When building MakerBox, the type of people we're aiming at are producers, producer-developers, creative technologists and digital artists, with an eye on those who are new to digital storytelling and may need more assistance from the community.

An empowered community can also help us on our journey, and we can learn so much more together by opening up our tools for collaboration. We want developers to be able to discover and experiment with BBC R&D tech, building on top of open-sourced code - but we also hope to learn too. By putting tools in the hands of creative technologists, we want to see innovative uses of the technology, find out more about its use, and discover new workflows and formats.

People being creative, making things with paper and craft materials on a table.

We hope opening MakerBox will enable a creative partnership to flourish without R&D being a bottleneck or a gatekeeper to these projects. As a rule, we ask all those who want to use the tools to offer feedback and insight on their experiments to stimulate others learning. MakerBox also features case studies from colleagues, partners or brands as a way of trying to breakdown any barriers for those who are new to digital formats and need a spark of inspiration for their next project.

Our focus for MakerBox is digital storytelling - giving people the technical capability to make the most personalised content for our audiences – responsive, participative and immersive.

We have designed MakerBox so that users can access as much knowledge about the technologies and the associated themes as possible.  That information could come from our team of experts or other users practising within the community who are posing questions and encouraging people to experiment in new ways.

Some of the tools we've tested are no longer available to use - either because we no longer license them or because we decided to stop development. However, we didn't want to lose all the insight and information we'd learned over time once access to the tool had ended, and so in these cases 'tool cards' are shown with details of how we used it.

The tools are arranged around categories such as 'immersive content' or 'responsive storytelling', allowing producers to take what they have learnt using one tool and build on this when using a different one in the same category. For example, although we no longer host Zappar, it centres on AR and 3D modelling - and these skills span other XR and immersive experiences. We want people to be able to learn from these experiments and take them on into future immersive trials.

MakerBox is connecting our communities of practice and is helping the conversation come to life online. MakerBox empowers our network of collaborators to act and engage together beyond physical meet-ups - which are still so very important. If we are open and listening, the possibilities of learning from each other are endless... so join the community and start experimenting!

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This post is part of the Future Experience Technologies section