The BBC has announced that it will be launching its own digital voice assistant ‘Beeb’ next year to work on all smart speakers, TVs, and mobile devices.
The new digital (AI) voice assistant, which is being developed by an in-house team, will be trained to have a good understanding of the many different UK regional accents. This has meant that BBC staff from around the UK have been invited to record their voices to help train the programme.
Even though the BBC has not said that ‘Beeb’ will be sold with its own hardware device (smart speaker), as an AI digital voice assistant it will essentially be in broad competition with Amazon, Google and Apple, all of which have already been in the market for some time with their own voice assistants.
That said, in addition to not being released in a bundle with a home smart speakers to compete on the shelves with other general smart speakers, Beeb is different because it has been designed, rather like the iPlayer, as a means to provide easier access to the BBC’s own content, programmes and services. It is thought that ‘Beeb’, being a BBC product that’s specifically designed with the purpose of accessing BBC content, will mean that it is trusted and used by BBC customers.
As a public services broadcaster, the BBC sees ‘Beeb’ as an important step to keep up with the times in what it describes as a “voice-enabled future”. For example, 20% of British households already use voice assistants (Guardian).
Some critics have pointed out that having a single syllable word such as ‘Beeb’ as the wake-word could lead to mistakes being made by the assistant, but the BBC says that ‘Beeb’ is still just a working title.
No More BBC on TuneIn
From the end of September, the BBC’s radio stations will no longer be available through the TuneIn radio app (as used by Alexa) because it has been reported that Amazon will not share information about listeners of BBC stations.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
The new digital voice assistant is a way in which the BBC can give its customers a more convenient and modern way to access its content, in the same way that some competitors are using Netflix uses Amazon voice controls on Fire TVs, and at a time when people are used to using other voice assistants. Also, Beeb is a part of the BBC’s move to push users towards its own products, and crucially, to find out more information about its users. This has been shown, for example, by the need to sign-up to view programmes on iPlayer, and by the impending removal of BBC stations from TuneIn app over a lack of information-sharing. The BBC’s own digital assistant will mean that it can have information-gathering systems built-in. This, in turn, helps the BBC to better target its services and to compete more effectively in the wider marketplace, while at the same time, help it to improve and add value to its public service broadcasting.