BBC Live Quiz Show First to Use Java on mobile

Broadcasters have flirted with interactivity in quiz shows for a long time – and there have been a few examples lately using mobile phones to SMS answers. However, the BBC has teamed with Tailor Made Films to develop the next stage – proper interactivity on multiple platforms, including a mobile phone and web-based Java applets. The game can also be played on Freeview and through satellite set-top boxes.

The project has been on the go for about 18 months, and has evolved since its inception. SMS was considered in the early days, but was rejected as it was too restrictive.

Neil Pleasants, Managing Producer at Tailor Made Films told Digital Lifestyles why they favoured Java: ” Java is portable – you can take it to other countries and it’ll work. Digital TV platforms might as well be written in Martian, they don’t transfer — the platforms differ wildly as their capabilities.”

The BBC website explains the format of the quiz: “Come And Have A Go… offers viewers the chance to challenge the studio winners head to head. Playing on interactive TV, Java, or web, teams at home answer the same questions as the studio teams. At the end of the first part of the show a satellite camera is whisked off to join the top scoring home team – wherever they are in the UK. In the second part of the show, the home team competes live against the studio team for the cash prize.” The cameras are on motorbikes distributed around the country.

Neil went onto explain how Java has enabled them to sell the programme into other markets with the minimum of trouble: “We’re taking the programme worldwide. When we went into countries and explained the idea, they loved it. But they didn’t know about the actual technology. We’ve made the technology as simple as possible and that’s the key, because that is so essential everywhere.” Tailor Made films even have an idea for a branded phone.

Their first phase was getting the programme into Western Europe, America, Australia and Scandinavia – the second phase will be Eastern Europe, Middle East, Japan and China.

Java also allowed Tailor Made to build high levels of security into the quiz applet to prevent cheating, including timestamping. This is just as well: the guaranteed minimum prize is UK£30,000 (US$55,000, €45,000) the largest ever weekly prize ever given out on a British television programme.

Neil believes that content is maturing to match the platforms available: “This is as interactive as it gets.”

The official website

Tailor Made Films

Sun’s Java home

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?