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05 Aug 2013 by Libby Miller

Radiodan is currently a small open source Ruby gem developed by Dan Nuttall that allows you to play BBC Radio Streams and other audio sources using MPD. Its usefulness lies in the ability to publish events which you can then subscribe to. For example, you can tell it to react to certain inputs (the example we used is to change stations following a button press), or tell it to emit data in response to other stimuli (e.g detect programme boundaries or track boundaries and send information about them).

A convergence of ideas at an internet of things hackday at BBC R&D led Sean O’Halpin, Jasmine Cox, Nikolaos Tsipas and I to create the ‘Archers Avoider’ an application of Radiodan on a Raspberry Pi with a ‘panic’ button to be pressed when the Archers (or other content you wanted to avoid) came on the radio.

You may well ask - why not simply turn off the radio? or, since the BBC publishes its schedule information, the Archers Avoider could simply never play the Archers (or any programme you don’t like) again, and indeed this is what Richard Sewell’s concept of ‘Not This Now’ would do:

Not This Now

The answer lies in the way toys like these generate ideas. People listen to the radio typically while they are doing something else such as working, driving, cooking - and they don’t tend to interact with the physical radio much once it’s on - they tend not to change station for example. Making the avoider got us thinking: the fact that people don’t tend to change radio station probably masks irritation about some aspects of their listening, where they are not sufficiently annoyed to change channel or switch the radio off, but they are not enjoying listening. What, then, if they could make their own radio? What would it do? What would it look like? What if we could make a radio that people of some technical ability could easily adapt to what they wanted it to do?

So that’s our current project: A connected, physical IP radio, which anyone with basic web-programming skills can adapt to make interesting applications and interfaces.

Dan Nuttall, Andrew Nicolaou, Chris Lowis and I have been working on Radiodan and applications of it in our 10% time at IRFS at BBC R&D. I’ve also had some great discussions about possible applications of it at the Bristol Hackspace with Richard Sewell and Anton Bowers. You can see some of our code and experiments on github and flickr, but we thought it would be useful to have a blog to put some notes up and give the work some structure. Please do talk to us if you are interested or would like to get involved.

I’ll finish with a picture of the latest version of the avoider, beautifully laser cut by Neil from Bristol Design Forge.

Archers Avoider Mk4