Last week the BBC launched a new interactive circuit guide application as part of their coverage of Formula 1, which returned to the BBC this year.
What I found particularly interesting was seeing a direct comparison of how Flash was used back in 2003 and how it is being used now, to deliver essentially the same type of content.
In the intervening period we have of course seen advances in computer hardware, broadband availability and the capability of Flash Player; as such, our expectations as consumers as to the quality, richness and performance of online experiences have also changed significantly.
Here is a screen shot of the BBC’s interactive circuit guide application animation, originally created in 2003, but used for several years after that:
The circuit guide combines a simple, static map of the course, together with current position, gear and speed and provides an audio commentary of the track. You can view the animation here and will note from the bottom of that page that “the movie is 340k and should take no more than 2 minutes to download” 😉
Fast forward to today and you can see that the revised circuit guides have almost no resemblance to the original – here are some screen shots of this year’s guide, together with a commentary as to what’s new:
The circuit maps have been rendered in 3D and are interactive, so that the user can change the viewing perspective and select to watch videos, commentary or a visual fly through from various points of interest along the track.
The performance of Flash Player is being stretched to deliver high quality 3D fly-throughs – during which you can choose to adjust the camera angle in real-time, view circuit information or watch the driver’s lap with full telemetry data.
Finally, whilst the original version featured just an audio narrative, the 2009 edition of course includes video; as well the driver’s view of the lap, there is also archive material presented for each of the courses to add to the depth of content available.
Overall, this is an impressive use of Flash Player by the BBC, with the development team leveraging the Away3D library to create a rich, interactive and engaging experience.
It will be interesting to see how the recently-launched Flash Player 10, with its improved rendering performance, 3D effects and Pixel Bender support, will be leveraged by applications such as this in the future, as there is no doubt that our expectations will only continue to rise.