BBC experiments with video personalized to every viewer

From the narrative to the color grading and score.

The BBC has for some years been enamored with the idea of "perceptive media," which loosely put, means content that adapts to its audience. The British broadcaster first experimented with an animated audio play that used your listening location to inform several minor elements of the story, like the weather. A "Perceptive Radio" took the concept one step further, playing different tunes based on environmental sensor data and other factors such as the listener's distance from the device. This year, however, the BBC's R&D team has been working with the altogether more complicated medium of video, creating a short film that is largely personalized for each unique viewer.

For this "visual perceptive media" project, the BBC developed a mobile app that analyzes music listening habits and asks questions about users' personalities. Paired with age and gender info, the resulting personal profile automatically tailors the short film to the perceived preferences of the viewer. The action may be different in some scenes, one character may get more screen time than another, and certain scenes may be cut altogether, for example. Storyline and direction aside, the whole appearance of a shot can be altered with different color grading, and the film's score takes cues from your music tastes.

In the future, the BBC believes perceptive media could use data from all kinds of services, perhaps adapting to your mood in real-time. You could also get more value out of repeat viewings, watching the same content several times and having different experiences. Only a select few have been party to this video experiment, but the BBC is working on a public prototype to test with a larger audience. Personalization to this degree is certainly an interesting concept, but we do have one slight reservation. How are we supposed to natter about the latest episode of our favorite show when we all watched something different?