The Olympic Games in Beijing will provide a prefect test bed for a European project to produce “an intelligent interactive television experience”. It will test new production tools and formats to produce coverage in which thematically interlinked streams are produced according to the unfolding live action and viewer feedback.

The Live production system will be tested at ORF, the Austrian broadcasting corporation. Four interlinked channels will be produced over the two-week period of the Olympics. These will be used by 500 Austrian households.

The project claims that its approach is different to other approaches to interactive television in that it not only produces several live audio-visual streams beyond the main channel, but also creates transitions or switching points where the user is invited to switch to another stream.

It appears to involve automatic and manual annotation, with a recommendation system that generates suggestions for the programme director.

The project says it aim to prevent mere “zapping” between streams and instead guide the user through interlinked streams with a coherent overall dramaturgy.

How this in practice differs from the sort of multistream coverage pioneered by the BBC is not entirely clear. In such services the selection of streams and management of transitions between them is organised according to normal programme production practice.

The Live project is partially funded by the European Union and is being undertaken by a consortium co-ordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute. Further details are available on the Live project web site.