BBC Launches ‘Play Along’ Smartphone App

BBC Antiques Roadshow App Logo

The BBC has launched a play-along companion smartphone app, that gives users a unique way of interacting with BBC programming.

Antiques Roadshow Play Along App

The first show to benefit from the technology is the Sunday evening TV programme, The Antiques Roadshow. With the app installed, smartphone users will be able to interact by offering their own suggested valuation for items members of the public have taken along to be valued by the professional appraisers.

At the end of each show, users will be ranked from Novice to Expert, depending on how closely their own offered valuations matched those of the experts.

To join in, simply launch the app on your smartphone, and choose the 'play along with the programme' option. The objects that are featured on the TV will be shown on the display of your phone, and a countdown clock will let you know how long you have to make your own valuation before the expert. To attain the level of expert, you will need to get a percentage score of 75% or higher.

Antiques Roadshow Play Along

The smart aspect about the interaction is you don't need to be watching the programme 'live' at the time of transmission to join in. The BBC have hidden audible signals within the programme transmission, which are picked up by the microphone on the smartphone. So if you record the programme to watch later, or use the catch-up service on the BBC iPlayer, you can still join in.

The 'audio watermarks' are totally invisible to audiences, hidden inside the soundtrack of the programme, and are used to identify the episode being viewed, and the content line-up on display.

The BBC spent a lot of time researching which TV programme could best be used to showcase this new technology, and the Antiques Roadshow created the most interest with test groups. Tom Williams, Development Editor for Red Button and Dual Screen at BBC Vision, said: “The Antiques Roadshow was chosen for the inaugural play-along app because and app for that show would genuinely enhance the programme for a mainstream audience. We piloted a number of titles but Antiques Roadshow stood out. As soon as we tested the first prototype of the app with audiences we saw what a buzz it created in the living room. The interface is simple enough not to distract from the programme and the interaction builds on existing behaviour – who doesn't shout out what they think an item is worth?”

The Antiques Roadshow Play-Along App is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, running iOS 5.1 and above, and can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store. An Android version is available for Android devices running Android 2.2 and above, and is available for free from the Google Play Store.