It looks like the British will soon have their own voice assistant complete with British accent, thanks to the BBC.
It has now emerged the BBC is working on the "Beeb" voice assistant for use with its own products. For example, the BBC website and the company's standalone iPlayer app. In fact, the company confirmed Beeb's existence in a blog post that took the form of an conversation.
That's a conversation between the BBC's Head of Service Development, Jeremy Walker and Beeb.
There's currently no word on whether the voice assistant will be compatible with BBC services and apps accessible in the U.S.
"Beeb" is a name commonly used in the UK to refer to the BBC. It seems the BBC itself is rather keen on the nickname as it is now expected to be the voice assistant's wake word.
Beeb is not only being designed to be more familiar with the British accent in general, but regional British accents as well.
Don't expect a smart speaker with a British accent
While it might seem a natural progression for most companies to launch an assistant followed by a smart speaker, that's not the BBC's plan. Instead, the company is far more focused on building the assistant with the sole purpose of servicing its existing products.
However, Walker also confirmed the assistant is being built with all devices in mind. More telling, the BBC appears to be willing to let third-parties use the assistant on their devices. Be they, smartphones, smart speakers or smart TVs. The BBC simply says it has no intention to release its own hardware to accompany the voice assistant.
Interestingly, Walker name-drops both Alexa and Google Assistant and the issues facing those voice assistants around data collection. Walker goes on to explain the BBC is a trusted brand and suggests Beeb might act as a way for its users to avoid interacting with Alexa and Google Assistant. A number of BBC services already support one or both voice assistants.
Of course, some will likely have their own concerns regarding the BBC's intention to collect user data.
Data is particularly important to the BBC
While any company will likely admit that data is important to them, the BBC is a bit different due to the license.
Residents in the UK are expected to pay a licence fee to access BBC services. This has always been a bit of a debating point for some. On the one hand, there's no additional yearly or monthly costs associated with access to BBC shows and content. However, the licence fee is not really an opt-in or out service like most other services. Basically, if you have a TV in the UK, then you are expected to pay the licence fee.
It is feasible an assistant might prove to be an additional layer that can help the BBC determine who exactly is listening or watching, and where they are.
The BBC expects to officially launch its Beeb voice assistant next year.