The BBC has reportedly formed a partnership with Microsoft to jointly launch a prototype of the previously announced voice assistant app, Beeb. The voice assistant will initially be launched in the UK as a part of the Windows Insider Program of Microsoft. Through this program, the participants will support the improvement of the assistant prior to making the global rollout.
There have been rising concerns regarding the exploitation of user data by the technology companies through voice assistants & other digital platforms. The BBC will mandate users to log in with the BBC account to collect user data. The company announced its plan to unveil the voice assistant in 2019, expressing its low intention about launching hardware as that of the Echo of Amazon and high focus on developing voice services in its products, such as website & iPlayer TV streaming service.
Additionally, the company leverages the Azure AI infrastructure of Microsoft, including speech recognition services, for the new app. The app has been built through multiple projects carried out by the two companies, including the voice-controlled iPlayer in 2017.
The Beeb Beta app, which is optimizing the digital services of the BBC, can be installed on Windows 10 PCs & tablets in the UK, and is accessible by those on Windows Insider Program. The app will initially play specific programs, podcasts, and radio stations from the BBC. Users can also stay updated on the latest news headlines and local weather. The company is currently not planning to add the 3rd-party content on this voice assistant service.
The organization will retain the anonymized text transcripts, rather than collecting audio recordings of what the users say, to be adopted for the improvement of the voice assistant app. The early launch of the app will also serve its purposes of specifically catering to several regional accents in the UK. The 1st version of the app will reportedly sport a default male voice to remain unique as compared to other popular voice assistant apps.