BBC Toys With Mind Control Headset For iPlayer

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Beam me up Scotty! Headset that reads brainwaves being developed to control BBC iPlayer platform

The BBC has teamed up with tech developer This Place to develop a ‘mind-control television headset for the iPlayer app.

It comes after BBC CTO Matthew Postgate earlier this year outlined his vision of mobile and virtual reality future for the BBC. That vision means the corporation will increasingly focus on delivering more content to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Mind Control

The BBC iPlayer is of course the corporation’s internet streaming catchup television and radio service. It has been around since 2007 and can be accessed via PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

BBC Broadcasting HouseBut now the corporation and This Place have developed a cheap proof of concept headset that reportedly allows people to control what they watch on the iPlayer by their brainwaves. The BBC apparently developed an experimental version of the BBC’s iPlayer on-demand platform to work with this headset.

A video of the headset in action can be found here.

“It’s an internal prototype designed to give our programme makers, technologists and other users an idea of how this technology might be used in future,” said Cyrus Saihan, head of business development for the BBC’s Digital division.

In the first trial, ten BBC staff tried out the app and were able to launch iPlayer and start viewing a programme via the headset. One user described the headset as “nuts”, but another user said it was frustrating and slower than using a traditional remote control.

“It was much easier for some than it was for others, but they all managed to get it to work,” said Saihan.

So how does it work? Well the headset monitors the electrical activity in the brain, and control of the iPlayer interface is done by the “metric of meditation or attention”. Essentially, people have to relax or concentrate their minds in order to use the headset.

The developers feel this could potentially be a very useful tool for quadriplegic people, as it could give them the ability to interact with an increasingly digital world.

It has been pointed out that the aerospace firm Tekever is also experimenting with drones that can controlled using brainpower alone.

Hit And Miss

The BBC has pioneered leading edge of technology since its foundation way back in 1922. When it was founded for example, radio was a new medium and the corporation quickly adopted television as well.

But it fair to say it has had a few tech problems as well. Last July the BBC named Matthew Postgate as its new chief technology officer (CTO) in order to restore confidence in its technical prowess. That followed the “complete failure” of the BBC’s ‘Digital Media Initiative’ (DMI) which wasted a £100m of taxpayers money.

The BBC’s botched Digital Media Initiative was scrapped in May 2013 following a lengthy development process that began in 2008. The corporate admitting it had wasted nearly £100m of licence fee payers’ money. It was supposed to have completed the project in 2011, but failed to do so, despite ditching contractor Siemens and taking the project in-house.

The man who oversaw that disaster, John Linwood, was sacked in July 2013, and he later took legal action against the BBC over the matter.

The BBC’s former director general, Mark Thompson, was forced to apologise at the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing over the matter.

And the BBC has had other issues. Last July the corporate was struck with a number of technical problems that prevented licence-fee payers from accessing programmes and videos on BBC iPlayer and on its website.

Another notable tech problem occurred in 2011 when most of its websites experienced a complete outage.

The BBC has a long history with tech. How well do you know Auntie?

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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