Vision is a live and on-demand TV platform developed at Lancaster University, available to both staff and students. With an on-demand library of over 21,000 items and with 40 live channels on offer, Vision presents a compelling alternative to existing broadcaster-backed offerings.
The service also acts as a valuable tool to enable the development of unique functionality. Without the constraints of strict assurance guidelines, researchers are granted the ability to rapidly create and deploy new features. Coupled with the built-in instrumentation, it provides a valuable source of user-generated feedback.
Vision has recently been employed to develop and deploy a number of cutting-edge features. This includes a tool to improve the relevancy of search results by annotating the elements within a video to supplement existing metadata. This is achieved through the parsing of embedded subtitles using established processing techniques. By retrieving recognised phrases and important words, additional information can be displayed to the user during playback, including external links to subjects referenced in the TV show.
Vision has also been used as a tool to provide atmosphere in potentially lonely viewing experiences. This builds upon existing chat-based functionality within Vision to create a sense of community and audience. By recording the text-based chat during each playback, subsequent users can enjoy and interact with the video as if they were watching live. This creates a sense of engagement, regardless of when they are consuming the content. A heat map of the chat is also displayed, allowing viewers to easily seek to potentially interesting or provocative points in a video.
The innovation enabled by Vision continues in the MPAT (Multi-Platform Application Toolkit) project, which aims to significantly reduce the barriers to entry for designing and building device-agnostic media presentations. Part of this effort includes the development of a plug-in repository; examples of which may include the atmospheric capability described above. With this repository, a user can choose to integrate existing plug-ins into their application, further simplifying the authoring process.
If your business is providing services on the Internet, you probably use a team of developers to build your company web page specific to your needs and specifications. It’s unlikely that the next eBay, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix or Google service will be able to use a web site ‘out of the box’.
But if you want to promote your new line of car decals, advertise for your new flower shop, let customers know how to take clean the toaster you’re selling, let your audience vote which songs should be on your band’s next album or create a memento of your sister’s wedding, you probably won’t start the web page by opening index.php in Atom.
It is more likely that you use a web site generator like WordPress, select the template or theme that best matches your requirements and then customize that to fit your content and desired look. (As we have done for this project web site.)
While this will certainly not result in a web site with unique features, it will result, if using a well written template, in a stable and easily usable web site. It allows the web site creator to concentrate on look and content and leave the burden of dealing technical and UI design details (variations between browsers, adaptation to mobile devices, accessibility issues,…) to the template designer. The idea of MPAT is to use this approach and transfer it for the TV world.
Currently, HbbTV (and other Smart TV) sites are mostly built by developers from scratch. This is sensible for the broadcaster’s main ‘Red Button’ landing page, which then incorporates EPG information, news, weather, advertisement, VoD and other interactive services the broadcaster offers. And there are interactive applications for special events (casting shows, interactive advertisements, play-along quiz shows, charity fundraisers) that need to be custom made to provide interactive features specific to these events.
But what is currently missing is something to cover the middle ground between the big ‘main landing site’ and the ‘one-use-only special apps’
– the cost efficient TV mini site.
There are various reasons to create an HbbTV mini site for a show (with episode guide, interviews, episode-catch-up, trivia, chat that is specific to the show and in a matching design), a time-limited site (providing a chat channel with the writer of the current programme during the programme and the hour following it) or a specific viewer group (a kid friendly set of pages, a high-contrast site for visually impaired viewers). But hiring developers to implement such HbbTV mini sites from scratch is too costly. The effort to high to justify doing it on a regular basis. This is the area that MPAT is aiming at.
The goal of the project is to take the WordPress idea and apply it to HbbTV, allowing the fast and easy creation of HbbTV mini sites. MPAT aims to provide a tool to fill the gap between full-fledged sites and one-shot special pages.
The main advantages of using MPAT for mini sites:
- Easy to use
- Covers a large amount of common requirements
- Fast creation of HbbTV pages
- No need for coding
- Device compatibility managed at template level
- Support for publishing for multiple platforms
- Abstraction from technical details (e.g. second screen support)
- Provision of plug-ins for often used functions
o Social media
o Image galleries
o And more …
MPAT is a two-year project funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 Program under grant agreement number 687921. It involves eight partners and builds upon results (the HbbTV Application Toolkit – HAT) from the earlier FI-Content 2 project.
The MPAT kick-off meeting takes place in Berlin on the 16th and 17th december and will be hosted by Fraunhofer FOKUS. At this event all partners will meet for the first time and set the direction for the upcoming challenge.
The documentary with a complementary HbbTV app was already aired end of last year on KIKA and rbb. The series with 20 episodes from monday to friday will be re-started on the 12th of august. The app was jointly developed by Fraunhofer FOKUS and the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb).