It’s very frustrating talking to a voice assistant that doesn’t understand your regional accent. But a new voice assistant launched by the BBC will learn UK regional accents to ensure you don’t have to attempt to alter your accent in order to be understood.
That voice assistant is called Beeb a nod to the BBC’s nickname and it’s just been released in beta form for a select group of users to try out. Those users are UK-based members of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Programme, a group of early adopters who test new tech and suggest improvements.
Beeb can play BBC radio, music, podcasts, news, and weather. But it also has a number of fun features that users can make use of. If you ask to hear a joke, you’ll hear one written by the BBC comedy writers. If you want something more specific, like a joke from Mash Report, well, ask and you shall receive. If you’re a fact-loving nerd (aren’t we all), you can ask Beeb for a “QI fact” and you’ll hear one from Sandi Toksvig herself. If you simply say the command “tell me a fact,” you’ll hear trivia curated by the team behind QI.
The team behind Beeb collaborated with Microsoft to build the product using Microsoft’s own technology. Azure AI services are assisting in building the infrastructure behind the voice assistant, which has a synthesised digital voice based on that of a male with a northern English accent. Upon downloading the beta version, users will be asked what regional accent they have. That data will then be used to train Beeb to better understand regional accents.
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