BLACKPOOL, England — The woman on the other end of the phone spoke lightheartedly of spring and of her 81st birthday the previous week. “Who did you celebrate with, Beryl?” asked Alison, whose job was to offer a kind ear. “No one, I…” And with that, Beryl’s cheer turned to despair. Her voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that she had been alone at home not just on her birthday, but for days and days. The telephone conversation was the first time she had spoken in more than a week. About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an unassuming office building in this seaside town at the northwest reaches of England, which houses The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour call center for older adults seeking to fill a basic need: contact with other people.
Not a lot of people know this but the BBC is one of the leading researchers in areas related to broadcasting and other technology. They invented Nicam stereo, teletext and much more besides. The microphones they developed in the 1930s are still the basis of many of those we use today. One area they’ve been particularly active in is VR, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and how it might be useful.
Here’s one example of research that tests the waters of what’s possible, via The Verge:
360-degree video is still a format without much of a purpose. Consumers and filmmakers alike are trying to figure out how to film in it but also what makes a good 360-degree video in the first place. BBC’s take on it seems pretty close to the ideal — relatively short in length, good quality, and engaging — and they’ll be releasing more as Planet Earth II airs. It’s still not the kind of immersive content promised by virtual reality, but at this point in time, it’s plenty worth escaping into.
A short video showing the work of user researchers at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – featuring Anna Rzepczynski who I taught* when she studied Textile Design at the University of Dundee!
*she might beg to differ 😉