Beaumont IT Technologist Zak Sly reports on an exciting development:
Over the past six months a group of students from Beaumont College, Lancasterhave been working with the BBC R&D (Research and Development) on a research partnership to make television more accessible for disabled people.
As part of the partnership some of the students got to opportunity to visit MediaCity in Salford, the BBCs new centre in the North. The students had a great day and thought this couldn’t be topped… Well…
On Friday 9 March three students Rebecca Hall, Jodie Turner and Hannah Dilworth were asked if they could have one final session with the BBC to do some filming. They were told that the short show reel will be shown to a VIP at MediaCity on 23 March. The VIP’s identity was secret at the time of the filming taking place.
The three students were filmed using a switch and a head mouse.
For those of you interested in the technical details – the switches were used to control a grid set from ‘The Grid 2’ on a normal laptop, which was connected to another computer (via a router) running a modified version of Mythbuntu (an open source Linux operating system with a media centre application built in). The operating system has been adapted to implement BBC R&D’s Universal Control API, and the Universal Control Mythbuntu files can be downloaded from GitHub.
The switch and head mouse allow the person using them to control a communication aid, which as well as giving them a ‘voice’ means they can do lots of everyday activities from talking to their families to controlling their environment (lights, heating, TV) and ordering a take-a-way or booking tickets to the cinema.
A couple of days later an email came from the BBC to let us know that VIPs due to watch the show reel were Her Majesty The Queen, while Lord Patten (Chairman of the BBC Trust) and Mark Thompson (Director-General of the BBC) had seen it at a previous screening. Read more about the opening of the BBC’sMedia City and the Queen’s Jubilee Tour.
The three students were all really excited about this! Rebecca Hall said “When I got the email off Zak about the Queen I was really excited.” A staff member who was with her at the time said that when Rebecca read the email she screamed with excitement! Jodie Turner said she was very excited and Hannah Dilworth agreed.