Learning & Second Screen Apps
With large factual websites content generally sits flat and the job of the editorial team is to curate it. To take users on a journey around the pages and tell a story.
A good example of this is the BBC’s Nature website.
Around 1000 animals and habitats have a single page and sit in one directory (actually they sit in a database and the pages are created dynamically but I don’t want to get too technical).
The BBC have created ‘collections’ that aggregate these pages along different themes. Garden Birds, David Attenborough’s favourite moments, Timelapse photography etc.
The holy grail of the web producer is to find a way to automate this story telling and I’ve worked on many development projects that have attempted to do so with varying degrees of success (using recommendation engines etc).
But what if we could take the careful crafted narrative of a TV programme and use that to guide the user around the web?
So called ‘Second screen’ apps have, up to now, been more about using social media to augment the tv watching experience (using twitter usually). But what if we were to use the structure of the programme itself to direct the user around the web and to do it automatically?
This is what I’ve tried to do in a very primitive way with this prototype.
It’s an iPad app that is designed to be used when watching BBC Natural History programmes. I’ve called it ‘Second Nature’. It interrogates live TV subtitles and when an animal or habitat is mentioned (or a term that is related to it) it is displayed as a thumbnail that when clicked displays the relevant page from the BBC Nature website. The video below shows it in action with Springwatch going out live. I hope to release something like this on the app store soonish but for now it is just a prototype.
While this is working on a tablet it is easy to imagine it on a phone and even on a set top box connected to the internet (You View, Google TV etc) and I think it could open up all kinds of educational possibilities. It could be configured to link to web content for certain age groups, or at sites of particular interest to the individual. If, for example, anything is mentioned that is on the GCSE curriculum it could point to revelvant educational web content (across many sites, not just the BBC). It could also use concept extraction (see this thing I built with Harry Robbins) to be a little cleverer than relying on simple text matching.
There are some interesting commercial implications too. It would be possible to sync advertising to run alongside public service broadcasts, for example.
You can imagine a world where, as well as providing live subtitling, broadcasters provided a live metadata feed to go alongside every TV and Radio programme…
**Updated 10th September 2011**
We are very pleased to announce that we have received funding from the Technology Strategy Board to create a scalable second screen platform called SecondSync.