BBC R&D

What we're doing

Radiodan is open source software and a lightweight creative process to help people invent and make their own customised radio.

The creative process uses paper prototyping techniques to help anyone work out what they want their radio to do, how it should behave and what it should look like.

The code itself is designed for a Raspberry Pi, and once installed becomes a fully functioning internet radio with a physical and web interface that will play all the national BBC stations. It is built using node.js and web technologies, so it's straightforward to start to customise its behaviour.

Radiodan also opens up the opportunity to explore the form of radio devices, and consider the materials to build them with - we've open sourced a laser-cuttable box design and we are developing a simple cardboard case, and we are extending that work into conductive inks, clays and fabrics.

We have a showcase of radios we've built so you can see the kinds of things that are possible, and a collection of postcards for radio designs in our Flickr group.

Why it matters

We want to make devices better and we are starting with radio. We think that it is only possible to test what makes a radio better by building devices that act like radios. The more people who can invent them and build them, the more interesting the radios will be, and the more interesting the resulting ideas, which can then be feed into the development of digital and physical products.

Our goals

  • A connected, physical IP radio, which anyone with basic web-programming skills can adapt to make interesting applications and interfaces.
  • A lightweight process for creating radios from ideas generation to paper prototyping to physical devices

How it works

The Radiodan software is written in node.js with the goal that anyone with some web programming experience can have a go at changing the code and making their own radio.

Each part of the radio is powered by its own micro-service, connected by a messaging broker, so one process manages the buttons, dials and lights on the device, another manages the audio playback and yet another handles the specific behaviour of the radio. Using a common event bus allows us to propagate events throughout the system. When the power button is pressed, the radio player responds, the button LED changes and the web interface has new data pushed to it.

The radio case was designed by Victor Johansson and is designed to be laser cut from a single sheet of material. It is a system of components that can be put together with minimal gluing. This makes it easier to take the radios apart, attach new elements to it and experiment with materials and sizes.

For the physical components, we’re mostly using hobbyist sources of cheap electronics like the Raspberry Pi, a USB wi-fi adapter, a cheap amp and speaker. We want it to be easy for people to get the components and make a radio with minimal experience of electronics.

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