BBC Jam (formerly known as BBC Digital Curriculum) was an online learning resource for children, designed to be used at home to support key areas of the school curriculum across the UK. It was available for free across the UK offering multi-media educational resources.
Some content was offered for users with hearing difficulties, and it was in this area that UEA was involved.
The reading and writing ability of deaf children at school leaving age is significantly lower than that of hearing children, as their first language is a signing language, such as British Sign Language (BSL), leaving them at a disadvantage to hearing children.
As part of BBC JAM project, Gamelab were tasked to produce a number of games for children to improve their literacy, using avatars that can sign words and sentences in BSL. To allow the games to viewed online, the delivery system used was Adobe Shockwave, a plugin for web browsers that allows 3D content to be viewed in a web page.
- To process the avatar meshes supplied by GameLab to enable them to perform BSL signs generated by Animgen, the synthetic signing engine developed at UEA for earlier projects, such as Esign.
- To produce an Xtra, a plugin library for Adobe Director, which is the authoring application for producing Shockwave content, that includes AnimGen and controls the avatar animation through Lingo, the Director scripting language.
- BSL signing consists of both body animation and facial expressions, but Shockwave does not natively support the latter (known as morphs or blend shapes), so new techniques were developed by UEA and GameLab to implement this.
- The Xtra was also designed to include scripted non-signing animations, such as walking and pointing, that could be written in Lingo to dynamically control animation in the games from user's input.
The project was completed successfully, and a range of games were produced by GameLab, collectively called Performing Hands, that included sentence construction, creation of plays with two characters, and puzzles.
The BBC JAM service was suspended on 20 March 2007 at the request of the BBC Trust, in response to complaints made to the European Commission from the commercial sector.
As this content was targeted at children with disabilities it would not be undertaken by commercial enterprises due to the small target audience, so it is possible that the games may be made available at some future date.
- GameLab, London Metropolitan University
- University of East Anglia