October’s Connected Studio brief came from the User Experience and Design (UX&D) part of the BBC and was all about audience engagement. Working with Steve Benford from Nottingham Uni’s Mixed Reality Lab (currently on secondment to the BBC) Kirsten pitched an idea involving facial recognition technology, and we were delighted when we found out that we were one of the six teams invited to take the idea forward at a two-day build studio in Media City, Salford.
So, we put a team together: three guys from the Mixed Reality lab (Steve, Michel and Edward) plus Jons and Kirsten and spent two full on days refining the idea from the pitch and building a working prototype for a second pitch at the end of the second day.
Our idea was all about connecting with the audience in a new way - using facial recognition software to capture facial expressions and then visualise this data in creative ways. Michel Valstar, Nottingham’s expert in facial analysis software made a simple application that detected like and dislike (in response to smiles and frowns) and Jons created a visualisation of the ‘face of the nation’: a composite image of hundreds of face, which reacts to changes in audience mood by changing colour. Meanwhile the rest of us worked furiously on our presentation and tried not to drink too much caffeine. On the first afternoon we put our idea to an invited group of audience members and held our breath while they thought about it. One person thought he probably wouldn’t use it, but the others were very enthusiastic, suggesting it would be a fun way of finding out how other people had reacted to popular shows.