Tuesday 27 August 2019 10:40 am

Hey up, Siri: BBC to launch ‘Beeb’ voice assistant that recognises regional accents

The BBC is preparing to launch a digital voice assistant next year that will be trained to recognise different regional accents from across the UK.

The new assistant will not be a hardware device, but will be built into the BBC’s website and will also work across smart speakers, TVs and mobile phones.

Read more: Google workers listen in on private conversations via smart speakers

Under current plans, users will activate the software by saying “Beeb”, but a spokesperson for the corporation said this was a “working title”.

BBC staff across the UK are being invited to record their voices to help train the software to recognise regional accents.

Voice assistants from Google, Apple, and Amazon have all come under criticism for not being able to understand regional accents in the UK.

A recent study by the Life Science Centre in Newcastle found that 79 per cent of people surveyed with a regional accent regularly altered their voice when communicating with the assistants.

Read more: Shut it, Siri: Most of us are really rude to our smart speakers

“Around one in five adults have a smart speaker in their home – and millions more have voice-activated devices in their pockets – so there is growing demand from people to access programmes and services with their voice. But people are concerned about how these devices use their data.” said a BBC spokesperson.

“We want to make sure everyone can benefit from this new technology, and bring people exciting new content, programmes and services – in a trusted, easy-to-use way.  This marks another step in ensuring public service values can be protected in a voice-enabled future,” they added.