Introducing Beeb: BBC’s voice assistant

Written by:
Amelia Craig
Date Posted:
27 August 2019
Tech News

The rise of the smart speaker 

Voice Assistants
According to recent research from UK-based analysts at Juniper Research, the use of voice assistants is set to triple over the next few years. The firm estimates that there will be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, up from the 2.5 billion assistants that were in use at the end of 2018.  

Although Amazon’s Alexa is currently the market leader of smart speakers around the world, in the years ahead it will be challenged by multiple competing firms, including the BBC’s latest voice assistant, Beeb.

The BBC is planning to launch its first digital voice assistant next year. Unlike other smart speakers, this will not be standalone hardware. Instead, it will be software, designed to work on all smartphones, TVs and speakers.

The voice assistant will be activated with the wake word ‘Beeb,’ although this is currently a ‘working title.’ Analyst Ben Wood from CCS Insight has expressed concern over the wake word. He explains that voice assistants typically use a multi-syllable wake word or phrase, such as, ‘Hey Google,’ to ensure accurate identification.

The BBC says that the wake word ‘Beeb’ has worked well in its research so far, but is not yet a final decision.

Entering a dominated market
Wood also believes that the BBC will find it difficult to compete with tech giants who already dominate the market such as Amazon, Google and Apple. Firms such as these have massive sums of money dedicated to improving and developing their voice assistants, yet still face multiple problems.

For example, Amazon’s Alexa has often had trouble interpreting certain regional accents from across the UK. However, the BBC believes it can overcome this problem by inviting staff from its offices across the UK to record their voices and make sure all accents can be recognized, hopefully giving it an edge on other voice assistants on the market. 

However, the BBC has admitted that it is not attempting to compete with the likes of Amazon, Google or Apple, and Beeb will not replicate the full set of functions provided by their voice assistants. Instead, Beeb will enable people to use their voices to engage with existing BBC content and develop new forms of interactive programming.

A voice-enabled future
The BBC believes that having its own assistant will enable it to experiment with new programmes, features and experience without someone else’s permission to build it in a certain way. They want to make sure everyone can benefit from this new voice-activated technology and bring people exciting new content.

According to a spokesperson from the BBC, the release of Beeb will “mark another step in ensuring public service values can be protected in a voice-enabled future.”

Would you consider using Beeb? Or are you sticking with another voice assistant? Let us know on Twitter @Hyve!

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