The BBC is working on a prototype for a new "future-looking" digital radio receiver called Olinda, which will combine DAB, wi-fi and social networking, and will allow users to see what their friends are listening to.
BBC Audio and Music Interactive has commissioned design consultancy Schulze and Webb to create a working prototype of the receiver, which is due to be delivered before Christmas. Olinda is a single-speaker DAB digital radio, with a large screen for text on the front and a smaller screen on the top of the device to aid tuning. The open-source software inside the receiver logs which stations a listener is tuning in to, and automatically generates a favourites list.
The device makes use of home wi-fi and social networking technology, allowing users to share information on when they are listening to the radio and which shows they prefer. Users can add friends to their network of Olinda users, and when a friend switches on their radio, a light corresponding to that friend appears on the front of the device.
The project was unveiled this morning at the Radio Academy's Radio At The Edge conference by Tristan Ferne, who runs the research and development team at BBC Audio and Music Interactive.
"We hope this will bring back that sense of community about listening to the radio, but with a twist," Ferne said. "It will support conversation around radio and discovery.
"Radio is quite a solitary activity. We don't all sit as a family and listen to the radio like we used to. We want to create something that would create a sense of liveness and community."
Ferne stressed that the project was still in its infancy, and called on other broadcasters and technology manufacturers to come on board.
"We're not going to build this and sell it [ourselves]," he said. "We are not in that market. It's not ready yet — I don't know how this would work."
"It shouldn't just be the BBC. This is really for all radio stations. I'd like your help."
Ferne said the Olinda receiver aimed to "stimulate the DAB market. We're not sure there's a huge amount of innovation at the moment," he said. "We thought that the radio should be visually striking. But if we made it look unlike a radio, people might not get it."