Move Alexa away! BBC launches its own voice assistant – and has a northern accent

From Amazon Alexa to Apple Siri, smart voice assistants are now part of many people's daily lives.


Now the BBC launched its own voice assistant, called Beeb. Beeb was first announced in August, but is now being released to the public.

Grace Boswood, COO of BBC Design + Engineering, said: "We are opening an initial version – also known as beta – for UK members of Microsoft's Windows Insider Program, a community of people who regularly test new technologies.

“The people in this program will help us to improve Beeb by experimenting with features and generally putting the voice assistant at their pace. The next step will be to bring this beta to the general public in the near future. "


Beeb was developed in collaboration with Microsoft and has a male voice with a northern accent.

Andy Webb, BBC's head of product for voice and AI, told PA: “We are really aware of the kind of problematic association that exists between female voices and assistants, as they are considered to be used in this regard. in a subservient way, so we really wanted to make … a point and put a male voice at the beginning.


Beeb was developed in collaboration with Microsoft and has a male voice with a northern accent

"Secondly, it is not from the south, it is from the north. We wanted to take a break from the traditional southern PR (pronunciation received) traditional from all broadcasters.

"What we really found is that when it is warm and friendly, kind of welcoming and easy to hear … it becomes quite pleasant to listen, so we work hard to represent the diversity of our audience much more, making it out of that South London PR. "

Beeb is designed to help users in a variety of ways, whether live or on demand, radio, news or local weather updates.


The BBC also worked with the writer of several popular BBC programs to give Beeb a little personality.


Boswood explained: "Ask for a joke and you will hear material from BBC comedy writers. Ask Beeb specifically for a joke from the Mash Report and you will receive exactly that.


"It will also help you to get a little more knowledge, with many quirky facts selected by the comedy panel questionnaire that shows the‘ elves ’of IQ, the same team from the No Tal Coisa as a Fish podcast.

"So, if you ask Beeb to give you an IQ suit, you will hear Sandi Toksvig herself, who will inspire you with her dry humor and deep knowledge."

While the BBC points out that this is a very old version of Beeb, she says the assistant will soon be able to do more and be available on more platforms.

Boswood added, "When it becomes available, we will still be adding new features in the coming weeks and months – and your feedback will be an important part of how we decide what to add and when."

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How to try Beeb for yourself

To experience Beeb, you need to be a UK member of Microsoft's Windows Insider Program.

After signing up, you will need to upgrade your PC to the Windows 10 May 2020 Update.

Then, download the ‘Beeb BETA’ app from the Microsoft Store here and sign in with your BBC account.


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