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BBC to Launch Digital Voice Assistant

The evolution of the internet has now become a necessity in our daily lives.

Online jobs are at their peak, technology is at its most advanced level yet, and it has all become so powerful that the whole concept of both work and leisure have changed.

The best part of it all is that this technology can be found on one device that’s in our pocket: the smartphone.

The ultimate luxury of having an assistant who listens to your requests, answers messages, e-mails and makes calls on your behalf has been around since 2011 when the iPhone 4s came out.

In addition to our smartphone’s feature, voice assistants have now turned into actual devices nicely displayed in our living rooms.

They can perform a variety of actions after hearing a wake word or command, such as turn the lights on or off, answer questions, play music, place online orders, etc.

Apple’s Siri was the first digital virtual assistant on a smartphone and then moved onto the smart speaker when the HomePod debuted in February 2018.

Similarly, the Google Assistant was created for the Android platform, and was followed by the smart speaker “Hey Google”.

Other well-known smart speakers are Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, IBM’s Watson and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Just say “Beeb”

If you have a British accent, you might have had difficulties communicating with digital voice assistants.

In this case, you don’t have to worry because BBC will be introducing its own Digital Voice Assistant in 2020!

Instead of launching a separate digital voice assistant device like Apple, Samsung, IBM and Microsoft, the BBC’s service will be compatible with all smart devices.

The BBC’s voice assistant will be built onto their website and its iPlayer app and will be available for manufacturers to download it onto their devices. One of the name suggestions for this new service is “Beeb”, but it hasn’t been made official yet.

Analyst Ben Wood of CCS insight feared that the BBC would have difficulty in competing with we—established tech giants in this market. According to a Canalys report, Chinese tech firm Baidu and Amazon had a combined 43% share of the global smart speaker market in the second quarter of 2019.

Wood stated that “Firms like this are already able to invest “eye-watering sums” to solve the challenges presented by regional dialects and still face problems”.

Therefore, a new player would have many challenges to face. Additionally, Wood has doubts that the name “Beeb” would work for the service.

“Typically voice assistants use a multi-syllable word or phrase such as Alexa or Hey Google to ensure accurate identification. I fear Beeb might end up being unreliable” he said.

Language: English (United Kingdom)

US-developed products with a digital voice assistant have been having issues in understanding different accents in English.

The BBC however, aims to make “Beeb” recognize strong regional accents.

Therefore, they had staff from offices all around the UK record their voices just to make sure the software understands them.

A BBC spokesperson also stated that “Around one in five adults have a smart speaker in their home – and millions more have voice-activated devices in their pockets, so there is growing demand from people to access programmes and services with their voice. We want to make sure everyone can benefit from this new technology, and bring people exciting new content, programmes and services in a trusted, easy-to-use way.”

Around 20% of households in the UK are using voice assistants. The BBC has been working with different types but is increasingly pushing users towards its own products in order to collect more data.

By the end of August, the BBC radio stations won’t be available on the popular TuneIn radio app, as it is also being used by Amazon’s Alexa and the US company won’t share information about listeners on BBC stations.

The BBC is now trying to push listeners to access its stations via its apps or Alexa, in order to understand what people listen to or do.

The BBC spokesperson commented on this by saying that “With an assistant of its own, the BBC will have the freedom to experiment with new programmes, features and experiences without someone else’s permission to build it in a certain way. It will also allow the BBC to be much more ambitious in the content and features that listeners can enjoy.”

So, what now?

The aim of artificially intelligent virtual assistants is to provide users with a hands-free experience making their lives easier. They listen to our requests through microphones, store data about our choices, and respond accordingly.

There is no doubt that the voice assistants available aren’t excellent at what they do unless the user has a harsh accent such as Scottish or Northern Irish.

(The struggle is real, have a look at this video)

In this case, we are looking forward to BBC’s voice assistant in 2020 and hopefully, the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland will get to have this awesome tech-speaking experience too.