BBC experiments with virtual reality as it debuts immersive talk show aimed at millennial women

The BBC is the latest broadcaster to blur the lines between TV and virtual reality with a new project from its experiential arm, BBC Taster, aimed towards young women.

The pilot initiative, dubbed No Small Talk, comprises a 360-degree VR talk show experience which is designed for viewing on Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear headsets. The show can be downloaded on the BBC Taster website and lets its audience sit in on a conversation between two well-known women – TV presenter Cherry Healey and blogger and podcast host Emma Gannon – while they discuss the big ideas that underpin young people’s daily lives.

According to a LinkedIn post from Darren Emerson, the co-founder of VR City, which helped produce the show in partnership with Lyristic, the launch program was produced with the “clear goal of creating a VR experience that is accessible to women.”

Based on research from YouView which indicated that male VR usage is almost double that of female VR usage, the show’s producers say they also set out to test their hypothesis that natural conversation is one of the best ways to convey and develop ideas, and to show that VR can “enhance that conversation and invite users to be part of the discussion.”

Chris Sizemore, executive editor at BBC iWonder, BBC Knowledge and Learning Online, commissioned No Small Talk and said it was “all about exploring the cutting edge, editorially and technologically, in order to be prepared to best meet the evolving expectations for media of young adult female audiences.”

“The vision for this piece of content format innovation is to connect ‘generation podcast’ with an emerging new media technology: 360-video & VR headsets. The experience offers this audience the chance to sit in on Cherry and Emma’s conversation with a sense of intimacy, to feel like they are present and taking part, not just observing from a distance or ‘through a window’.”

VR has yet to become mainstream but more media owners, including the Guardian, are now taking advantage of the technology to enhance their broadcasting and editorial offerings.

Earlier this year Andy Conroy, controller of BBC Research and Development (R&D), said that the corporation's aim for exploring VR at present was “to get a better understanding of this emerging medium, help inform any future strategy, and look at the role we should play at this early stage in order to provide the value for audiences in the future.”

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