The man who helped to revolutionise television with iPlayer, the BBC's online service, will tonight trial his next big project – helped by Liverpudlian housewives.
Anthony Rose, the technological visionary who turned iPlayer into a success when he ran the BBC's Future Media department, has developed Zeebox, which promises to make TV viewing an "immersive social experience".
Viewers have become accustomed to keeping one eye on their favourite show while following audience reactions from the Twittersphere on their laptop. Mr Rose's app will make that easier, and will be trialled when Channel 4 tonight launches "structured reality" series, Desperate Scousewives, following Liverpool's wannabe Wags and budding beauticians.
By downloading the free iPad app or logging on through Facebook, viewers will be given a range of interactive options. If Liverpudlian argot is too much, a "Scouse glossary" will appear on screen.
When the stars of the show, broadcast on E4, hit a local club (as they do, frequently), a Google-powered map will identify the place where the party is taking place.
A rolling feed of tweets from the cast and celebrities discussing the show will track the programme, commissioned to cash in on the online "buzz" that hit youth-oriented shows such as The Only Way Is Essex have generated on social network sites.
The Scousewives offering is a taster for what's to come, said Mr Rose.
"The Zeebox acts as a remote control if you have one of the new internet-connected television sets," he said.
"It has a system that filters the tweets of 400 celebrities, sports stars and media figures and alerts you when they tweet about a television show. Zeebox has the technology to automatically change the channel... to that show." Mr Rose, poached by the BBC from the file-sharing site Kazaa, added: "It could be friends of family choosing your viewing or Wayne Rooney by tweeting he is watching a game."
Zeebox also produces a rolling on-screen gauge of programme popularity with its users, of particular interest for broadcasters unwilling to wait for the next day's ratings to assess a show's impact. Commercial networks plan to use the app to direct users to promotions and games as they watch shows.
"The Zeebox technology will revolutionise what we choose to watch on television," Mr Rose predicted.
But the BBC iPlayer could be left behind as "split-screen" interactive viewing becomes the norm. "They would have problems moderating tweets and when anyone swears at the BBC it's a national crisis," Mr Rose said.Reuse content