Virgin Media launches ‘KipstR’ the tech that controls TV as you sleep

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  • Christmas KipstRs combat F.O.M.O. with new wearable technology 
  • Teenage tech prodigies team up with Virgin Media to develop wearable tech that talks to TiVo®
  • KipstR captures 51.3 million hours of Christmas Telly missed from post-turkey napping*

Turkey with all the trimmings, one more sherry and hours with the in-laws: no wonder one in five (18%) of us are expected to fall asleep on the sofa on Christmas day.

With Brits watching around 4 hours of festive viewing on Christmas day, people are set to miss up to 51.3 million viewing hours including shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, Downton Abbey or the expected killing off of Gail Platt in Coronation Street.

Tech savvy teens, Ryan Oliver, 15, and Jonathan Kingsley, 14, students at Manchester Creative Studio, teamed up with Virgin Media, as part of its  Switched on Futures initiative to create ‘KipstR’ – wearable technology to rescue sleeping Sofa Bears from the Fear Of Missing Out (F.O.M.O) by automatically setting their TiVo boxes to record whatever they’re watching if they fall asleep in front of the box.

Ryan and Jonathan were commissioned by Virgin Media to help develop the 3D printed wristband which uses a pulse-oximeter to sense if the wearer is asleep or awake and then mimics the users’ TiVo remote control to pause, record or resume a show appropriately.

KipstRs Ryan and Jonathon

Despite being in their early teens Jonathan Kingsley (14) and Ryan Oliver (15) are proficient in software design which would go over the heads of most adults.

The boys currently attend Manchester Creative Studio, a new employer-led school which opened in September 2014. This innovative college breaks the traditional format of mainstream schools to teach employability and enterprise skills, alongside national curriculum subjects. This institution aims to address a growing skills shortage in the industry that traditional educational pathways are currently failing to address.

Jonathan’s fascination with information technology started when at the age of three when he discovered his Dad’s computer. After this initial introduction Jonathan’s passion grew and he progressed to programming through using the MIT programme “Scratch” followed by Minecraft mods then on to exploring server-based coding and mobile development. Jonathan decided to channel his focus on software development four years ago and this is now his main area of interest. In the future, Jonathan would like to explore artificial intelligence and natural language systems.

Ryan first became interested in exploring different languages such as Lua, C++, Python and Ruby from a very young age and started creating software five years ago, when he was just nine.  Ryan travelled to the States with Jonathan to attend a Hackathon and proactively approaches big brands to pitch and critique ideas. He is now working on expand his network to allow him to meet similar creative individuals and grow his business contacts.

How does KipstR work?

  • KipstR measures a user’s heart rate to detect sleep before communicating with TiVo to pause and record the current programme being viewed. When the user’s heart rate rises to ‘awake’ levels it can trigger Virgin Media’s TiVo boxes to resume the programme.
  • The current KipstR prototype features using a spark core chip, pulse-oximeter, push button, sleep mode indicator and a small LiPo battery.
  • The spark core chip at the heart of KipstR processes all the data from the pulse-oximeter, dictating when the band triggers TiVo to record, pause or re-play.
  • The flexible outer casing of KipstR is 3D printed using an Objet Connex 3D Printer using a new, resin called Polyjet which is more robust than the rigid plastics used by most 3D printers.
  • Wearable technologies such as KipstR could also be used to monitor wearer’s emotional reactions to their TV viewing, helping TiVo learn & tag programmes that evoke the strongest responses from the wearer.
  • Virgin Media is exploring how KipstR could sleep-control other connected devices in the home including powering up & down devices and controlling customers central heating, helping save time and money.

According to research from Virgin Media, Dads are the most likely to take control of Christmas telly viewing – a potential cause for the 4 million expected arguments over TV expected this Christmas day*. However, with KipstR, the rest of the family can change the channel with the peace of mind that Dad’s show will be safely recorded.

Talking about the new technology, Ryan, 15 commented:

“We jumped at the chance to work with the Virgin Media team on this project, it was a brilliant challenge for us but we’ve learnt so much and are really pleased with the end result.”

Jonathan, 14, added:

“We have really enjoyed working alongside the innovation team at Virgin Media. It’s given us a taster for what we would like to do when we leave school. We’re excited to see what the next project with Virgin Media will bring.”

Neil Illingworth, head of advanced technology and innovation at Virgin Media said:

“We have been exploring the possibilities of connected entertainment for some time and are very excited to unveil KipstR. With emerging new technologies, it is possible to create almost anything, such as emotionally intelligent entertainment systems that can suggest shows based on your moods, or even harnessing brainwaves to control your television.”

Virgin Media will be trialling KipstR this Christmas with customers able to register interest in KipstR from December 2014.

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