Science Zone Interactive

This is a play out from a viewers session with Science Zone Interactive. I have added an informal commentary explaining what is going on and the structure of the interactive content. This was made in 1998 and was considered a ground breaking production, winning the Royal Television Society’s award for Multimedia.

Science Zone – Interactive is based on one of the ‘Science Zone’ programmes called ‘It’s in the Blood’ which teaches aspects of circulation and respiration in the human body. In the programme, the presenter is introduced to a class learning first aid. His learning experience within this class sets the framework for the programme. In the first part of the programme, the presenter has to administer aid in the reconstruction of a small accident, a fall from a ladder with subsequent bleeding and respiration problems. The presenter meets a specialist make-up artist, who explains how “casualties” are “made up” to make accident reconstructions realistic. In describing her work, the viewer learns about the way blood flows around the body.
The interactive version of ‘Its in the Blood ‘explores ideas of learning through narrative in an interactive environment, rather than ideas of research through the use of an interactive encyclopedia. The broadcast linear version is used as the starting point for the interactive version.
Once the viewer starts interacting with the programme, there are ample opportunities to explore, before rejoining the main narrative thread again.
The interactive version has been designed to be a very engaging, immersive experience which can be re-visited many times, unlike a linear programme which is designed for a few viewings only.
Design Principles
The following are the general guidelines for the interactive design of Science Zone – Interactive:
• It has the look and feel of a television programme, rather than a computer program. In particular, the default way of viewing the programme is with the video running full-screen and uncluttered by any buttons
• Like linear television, Science Zone Interactive has the feel of a continuous medium, rather than an interruptible medium. In particular, there are very few points where the programme stops and waits for user input.
• The viewer is encouraged to make interactive choices, rather than forced to do so.
• The target viewers are particularly receptive to interactive techniques from the world of computer games, rather than the ideas found in computer programs designed for use in an office environment.
Interwoven with this, mini-documentaries show how a diver breathes underwater, and how surgeons use virtual reality techniques to perform delicate operations. The viewer also sees endoscope pictures of the heart, demonstrations of how the heart and lungs work, and how blood flows through the body. There are also lots of fascinating facts about the human body.
In the final part of the programme, the presenter unsuspectingly finds himself part of a major accident training exercise, involving 60 casualties and a ferry on fire on a lake. The programme follows the presenter as he uses his newly learnt skills at first aid in treating the “injuries”. The viewer also sees the emergency services (police, ambulance, fire, helicopter rescue) as they race to the scene and rehearse their accident techniques.
We have used Science Zone – Interactive to investigate different styles of interaction and their application to designing Interactive Television Programmes:
• Different versions of linear narrative: By taking advantage of “junctions” in the programme where interactive menus occur, different viewers are able to take different narrative routes through the programme material.
• Different levels of explanation: We have used interactivity to allow different viewers to get different depths of explanation of the science of respiration and circulation. We see this as an enormous advantage of interactive television, where each pupil will get individually tailored teaching of the subject.
◦ Different points of view of the same event (parallel story lines) This is an activity that allows viewers to see different points of view of the same situation. In a major accident reconstruction at the end of the programme, viewers can choose to see the story from the point of view of the following participants. At various points, as different people’s stories interweave, the viewer can choose to leave one set of people and continue watching the event from another point of view.
• Intelligent Management System (IMS): We have devised a Resonant Interactive System in the form of an Intelligent Management Systems which takes control over the various interactive styles. The IMS builds a profile of the user whilst they are watching the programme. The IMS then ‘re-cuts’ the main narrative according to this profile, without the user being aware. This is an example of automatic resonan

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