Murdoch snares TV watching funding

MURDOCH University researchers have engineered a funding coup, winning a total of more than $4 million in grants including more than $800,000 for interactive television projects overseen by Professor Duane Varan.

The Murdoch University-based Interactive Television Research Institute has secured $411,000 of Australian Research Council funds bringing the total funding for its Interactive Television Audience Research Lab to almost $2 million.

The new lab is expected to accelerate the development of interactive television programs.

Professor Varan also secured $420,000 funding for research into interactive TV childrens’ programming, a project aimed at understanding how to enhance a program producer’s communication and educational goals.

The Interactive Television Audience Research Lab is also supported by three other WA universities, the University of WA, Edith Cowan University and Curtin University as well as dozens of companies in the media, IT and telecommunications industries.

The research consortium has contributed $180,000 in cash and more than a million dollars of in-kind support including hardware and software.

The facility will feature state-of-the-art audience measurement technologies including an eye gaze system to map eye movement over a television screen.

According to Professor Varan, Murdoch University’s head of New Media and director of Interactive Television Research Institute, the technology will help adapt interactive technology to suit audience needs.

“Interactive TV is a new beast. It’s not like a PC where you have a mouse and an arrow on the screen. People don’t want to do that with television,” he said.

“It’s something entirely new, it’s not TV and it’s not a PC, and this will help us understand whether people understand what to do next and what parts of the screen they are watching.

“There is no way to do that without properly monitoring eye movement.”

Professor Varan said that the Interactive Television Audience Research Lab would help broadcasters develop programs more quickly.

“A lot of what is happening now in the development of the technology is a lot of tinkering and working out what works. That takes a long time to develop compelling content,” he said.

“What we can do for the industry is accelerate the process. By the end of the decade I doubt whether you won’t see an ad that won’t have interactive digital enhancement.”

Professor Varan also secured funding for a project that has already demonstrated that interactivity significantly enhanced the educational value of television for children.

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