Now you can beta-test new BBC TV, radio and technology with BBC Taster
When it comes to making TV and radio shows and pioneering technologies such as iPlayer, the Beeb has tended to do its own rather brilliant thing. But now it wants to know what you think about where it should go next, and it's created BBC Taster for the purpose.
Taster is a website that showcases the BBC's most experimental wares, be they maverick radio shows, new ways of news storytelling, interactive TV or entirely new pieces of technology such as voice control and 360º video. Adrian Willard, Head of Connected Studio at the BBC describes Taster as "a new digital home for ideas" and "a place where we can show ideas in their earliest form".
Anyone can try out the experiments, and each is packaged with a series of questions from its producers to glean feedback. Users will be encouraged to share what they've just tried with their friends, and feedback will be used to decide whether experiments should be iterated upon, launched or nixed completely.
BBC Taster Your Story
BBC Taster R1ot
The site is live now here with 17 experiments for launch and more planned for later in the week. Already, there's an interactive gig from Run The Jewels, a 'Your Story' web app that creates a rich media news timeline based on your birth date and a demo from BBC Arts that allows users to construct poems from parts written by six different poets. In geekier news, there's also an interactive Dr Who video that explores the Doctor's history.
Another experiment set to go live on Taster this Thursday (29 January) is BBC Radio 1's R1OT, which is a platform for polling listeners via their social feedback. If Zane Lowe poses a question - should he play SBTRKT or James Blake next, say - and creates a Twitter hashtag in support of each, R1OT assigns an avatar to each Twitter user who tweets using said hashtag, shows what they said in their tweet, and tallies the total votes to decide how the radio show will play out.
The BBC's Ralph Rivera, Director of Future Media, said, "We've never challenged the storyteller the tell the story in a different way. How do we take the internet and turn it from a broadcast platform and turn it into a medium in itself?" That's one of the questions he's hoping Taster might help to answer - but it's also an opportunity to have fun with tech in other ways.
A taster the future: Binaural sound, 360º video and voice control
BBC Taster Binaural Sound
The BBC has a history of doing amazing things with tech (BBC Micro, anyone?), and Taster will also be used to showcase those developments as they emerge from prototype stage. We got the chance to try out some of the future broadcasting forays the Beeb is currently making.
First up was BBC Voice (not anything to do with The Voice, fortunately) which uses natural language voice instructions (such as "tell me the news in London") to deliver content from the BBC News website.
The Venue Explorer prototype gives tablet users a stadium-side view of the action via wide-angle 4K camera. If you're at the athletics, you're able to zoom in on individual events and have the audio adapt based on what you're focusing on. So, if you look at the javelin, you'll get a feed from a different set of microphones than you would if you zoomed in on the 100m, and all feeds are augmented with ambient sounds from the camera's immiediate vicinity. In theory it's like being there live, but with more useful sound and a comfier seat.
Perhaps the most exciting demo is binaural audio, which generates a hugely convincing, movement-sensitive surround soundstage in a pair of stereo headphones. It's already been used to provide surround effects for Radio 4's recent Under Milk Wood radio play, and could really come into its own when combined with 360º VR video feeds from gigs and live sport (incidentally, we saw an Oculus Rift demo of VR video broadcast that the BBC made during the Commonwealth Games. That's right: broadcast VR).
Although the above aren't on Taster right now, they could in theory be showcased via the platform in future. If you want to check it out - and we suggest you do - head to bbc.co.uk/taster.
READ MORE: We try Oculus Rift's new HRTF Spatial Sound