Blog posts tagged as BBC Connected Studio Pilot

Companion-centred design

The CMeebie project establishes a new relationship between the BBC and a child: a companion.

During a great talk by BERG’s Jack Schulze, he summed up how lots of software and connected things are starting to go beyond straightforward responses to interactions with the phrase: “there’s no more U in UI”. Then he showed this video of a quadrocopter juggling a ball:

That video sums up how software and connected things are starting to display qualities such as behaviour, motive and even agency.

That’s what we were exploring in this BBC prototype. But the relationship between the child and the CMeebie needs to be established at the correct level. Taking cues from existing discussions around companion-centred design, we decided the companion needed to be as “smart as a puppy” – far from being too smart to fail, the CMeebie needed to make endearing mistakes in its attempts to learn and improve. This approach reduces the chances of the so-called “uncanny valley” effect whereby users feel uncomfortable with an entity which behaves almost but not exactly like a human being.

Endearing failure is particularly important around the suggestions. The CMeebie is effectively the friendly face of a suggestion engine, gathering information about the child and using this information to serve relevant content to the child. It’s important that the CMeebie can get it wrong and then tries to use that information to improve in the future.

There’s no doubt companion-centred design is becoming a big thing. This experience building a digital companion for children was illuminating and satisfying and we’d love to explore this area further.

BBC Connected Studio – CBeebies Build Studio

The third BBC Connected Studio was around CBeebies, the BBC product for children up to six years old. I went along to the day-long session at MediaCity UK, Salford and teamed up with people from the BBC, Thought Den, Fettle Animation to pitch an idea. It revolved around creating magic for children using technology, but combining it with nurturing elements to back up and give substance to the magic.

As it turned out our idea wasn’t terribly original with another team pitching something similar, but it was one of ten to make it through to the next stage: the Build Studio, two days of rapid prototyping to develop the idea into a proof of concept.

One of the best things about the event was the unique collaborations going on: the BBC had paired all manner of different companies together to create interesting combinations of technical and creative groups. It was a bold move which added to the frenzied energy and made the event feel even more special.


We were a large team with various skills and this diversity made it difficult to focus at times. Yet the technical group knuckled down to create some interesting examples of how our idea might work on the web, while the creative group explored the full possibilities of the concept. This involved everything from planning interactions to sketching wireframes to developing user journeys.

The number of people from the BBC – from editorial to UX to technical – on hand to offer advice and feedback was wonderful. People like Jon Howard, Game and Web Development Team Leader, managed to impart enthusiasm, scepticism and knowledge in healthy doses at all the right moments. Thanks to the BBC Connected Studios team for organising it and making everything run smoothly. It was a brilliant few days.

We await the verdict in a few weeks about whether our idea was good enough to make it through to a full pilot.