The BBC launches Beeb, the first voice assistant with Microsoft

Is called Beeb, and it is the first voice assistant launched by the BBC and made in collaboration with Microsoft. Right now, it will be available for the UK as part of Microsoft's Windows Insider program, through which attendees will be able to help improve the product ahead of its wider launch.

Of course, the launch comes at a rather acute stage of industry tensions. In recent months, tech companies have received quite a bit of criticism about how they manage user data through voice assistants and other similar platforms. The BBC, as a British tax-funded public service, will take a different policy. The company will collect the data allowing users to log into Beeb using their BBC account. There shouldn't be any criticism about it, since the intent is not at all the marketing intent that Amazon and Google share.

Here's Beeb, the BBC's voice assistant

The BBC announced its plans for Beeb as early as last year. The intent was to create not so much an instrument similar to Amazon Echo, but real voice services within its products, such as the website and the iPlayer TV streaming service. In a short time, the company has made great strides. The BBC is indeed taking advantage of the Microsoft Azure Artificial Intelligence platform for the new Beeb App, based on a series of experimental projects in which the two companies have already collaborated.

The wait is over. Now Beeb Beta is available in the UK for PCs and tablets with Windows 10, provided they are included in the Windows Insider program. For the time being, the voice assistant will be able to play specific radio stations, podcasts or programs of the BBC. Or, to the sound of “Ok Beeb, update me”, you can get information on the local weather and the hottest news of the moment. Don't underestimate the “Ok Beeb, tell me a joke” option, which will allow you to listen to some funny answers written by comedy writers.

The BBC launches Beeb, the first voice assistant with Microsoft

No marketing purposes, therefore. The intent of the BBC is only to facilitate the use of content by users. Precisely for this reason, the voice assistant has limited functionality, which does not allow you to ask him questions to answer or turn on the lights in the house. It is not Alexa much less Google Assistant. And with good reason. Here it is only a question of improving the management of BBC content by their users, in full respect for their privacy.

Voice assistants have received quite a bit of criticism because it was thought that someone could listen to user commands. Beeb will only activate at the “Ok, Beeb” order, which should somehow facilitate the safety of those who use it. And if that wasn't enough, the BBC has stated that it will not make any audio recordings of what users have said. Text transcripts will remain, in a completely anonymous form, that the company will use in collaboration with Microsoft to improve the performance of the voice assistant.

It seems quite evident that Beeb's intentions are very far from those of instruments of his own type. We just have to see what happens in the UK then, and wait for the improvements that Microsoft will decide to make. Then we could talk about it again.

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