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Sun Jun 07 2020

BBC’s northern accent voice assistant has made it to the beta testing stage

The BBC have launched their eagerly anticipated northern accent voice assistant with members of Microsoft’s Window’s Insider Programme getting the first look thanks to the BBC’s partnership with Microsoft and it’s Azure AI services.

 

The BBC first announced the program last year with the goal of empowering users to enjoy their services regardless of their accents.  

Known as the Beeb voice assistant, it’s been created to recognise a multitude of different British accents across a variety of BBC platforms including Sounds, Sports and News.

The BBC confirmed in the announcement that users will be able to use the new functionality to search and play live and on-demand radio, podcasts and music or to request weather and news updates, both regional and national.

The app will be able to communicate with users in a male, northern voice, moving away from the traditional emphasis on southern RP (received pronunciation) and Queens English.

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What we really find is, when it's warm and friendly and kind of welcoming and it's easy on the ears ... it actually becomes quite pleasant to listen to, so we worked hard on representing the diversity of our audience much more by making it from outside of that London southern RP.

Andy Webb - Head of Product for Voice & AI, BBC

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Within the release the BBC also confirmed that it’s voice assistant won’t be recording conversations to help improve the functionality of the app, unlike other large companies who have faced criticism in the last year or two over this same issue.

 

Whilst it’s still early days for the fledgling Beeb app, it’s encouraging to see that the BBC’s main priority is in getting feedback from end users to develop as they go. They’ve admitted there could still be kinks in the app that need working out but that once they have been their priority will shift to adding in new and exciting features.

Eventually the BBC would like to launch Beeb across multiple smart home devices such as Google Home speakers and Amazon Echo.

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Sun Jun 07 2020

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