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What you need to know

  • The BBC is developing its own digital voice assistant.
  • BBC employees are being asked to help train it.
  • The wake-word is currently "Beeb" although it may change.

The BBC has announced that it is working on its very own digital voice assistant, but there are no plans to release any hardware. Instead, it will be used alongside existing BBC apps and services like iPlayer. The assistant will be platform agnostic as a result, working with existing smart speakers, TVs, and phones.

There is no shortage of competition in the digital assistant space with incumbents like Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon's Alexa already popular. The BBC says that it wants to build its own assistant so that it can "experiment with new programmes, features and experiences without someone else's permission to build it in a certain way," according to a spokesperson. They went on to say that the company hopes to make it possible for everyone to benefit from the new technology.

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To that end the BBC is already asking its employees to help train its voice assistant in an attempt to make it better understand regional accents. Those employees are UK-based however, with no indication as to whether similar training will take place internationally.

Current testing includes the use of the wake-word "Beeb" although that is not yet finalized. The use of a single syllable word is a concern for some, however, with CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood noting that devices may struggle to recognize it accurately. "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," the analyst noted.

No timescales have been shared for the arrival of the digital assistant as yet.