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Mukul Devichand talks about why the BBC is launching their own smart voice assistant called ‘Beeb’.

by Sam Sethi
July 13th 2020

Sam talked with Mukul about how this very early beta project fits into the wider BBC strategy across multiple services to act as a trusted public service voice assistant to the vast array of conten... More

Hello, everyone on. Welcome to Sam Talks Technology, Your weekly guide about all things tech on business with Sam Sethi. Well, and welcome to another episode of sand talks technology. I'm very excited today because I've got Mogul David Chan. He is the executive editor of Voice and AI at the BBC. In his nutshell, he's responsible for their new voice assistant called the Beeb. Michael. Hello. How are you? Hello. Hello, Sam. Lovely to be here. Thank you for joining us. Now. I said that you are in charge of this new technology that was announced recently called Bebe, which is a voice assistant. Let's start off with what is Bebe? How do you define it On what's its role? Sure, you can meet Bebe on talk to Be, But let me just see if I could get me to talk to you. Hold on. Hey, what are you? Hi. What can I do for you? You can ask me to play any of the BBC's

radio stations. Shows a music mixes. There you go. So that's your brief introduction to Bebe. Bebe is a voice assistant. To put it simply on Bebe is as the name probably implies Bebe is very much comes from the BBC. Andi is, at the moment be There's a beater product that lives in the windows inside the testing program on there's an early expression of what a BBC run voice assistant could be on. It can do what it just told you, because genderless it's kind of obvious what you can ask it for its ask your BBC program, your audio program, your radio station on it could make conversation about a bunch of things. You can tell you a little bit about what's going on in the world. You can ask it to update you on moving forward. Bebe is really mean. We say it's the world's first public service ai assistant on. But that's because we are the world's leading public service broadcast. That's all. Really. What we do in the world is the BBC. Bebe is a kind of a voice ai expression off that mission now

. It is just where it is on its very much day, 42 still very young, very young. But in a nutshell, it's a BBC s public service. I say I assistant. Okay, well, it opens up a plan. A plea of questions. First off, why or how, or who came up with the idea of starting a voice assistant for B? Was that you? Well, look, I won't take sole credit for anyone, decision or anything. The bigger decision, I think, really came from Tony Hall R D g Andi goes back a couple of years. I'm an editor. My background was running some digital products for the BBC had done some interesting stuff and I got a tap on the shoulder from the big bosses. And I think they realized from early on that some technologies a huge disruptors on day identify that voice and a I technology might well become one of those. And so they asked myself, but also a bunch of other people from the worlds of technology and a team we have called news labs

and Andy Webb, who is the head of product for voice, and I. Let's have a think about this on come up with the contours of how the BBC should begin to react to this big change. There's a bit of crystal ball gazing in this. We all have to make predictions about how the world is going to change. Voice and AI assistants are. If you observe where big tech have been putting their money for the last several years, this is going to be something. Give the credit to our bosses to identifying from early on that this is something we need looking at and then in terms of how we get to be, I think our aim is basically to facilitate. What we're really thinking is how is the world going As we move towards people Call this. You know, all these buzzwords fly around. People say this the voice Internet is gonna be the fourth Internet or the ambient Internet. So conversational ai. That's another one. Actually, I kind of word that I didn't know some years ago and now I used as if it's like a normal word. So as these technologies bed in our aim has always bean, what is the best possible

conversation that the public can have with the BBC, which they will pay for Andi? We've done various things over that time to further enable that conversation for example, our skill on Alexa on DSA mother skills. We've tried out various experiments and the latest step is to try out and start to offer this technology of a BBC public service assistant off its own. It's alongside a whole bunch of other things, and now it's very much a beater technology, and we are trying it out and learning from it. So in that sense, it's part of a wider strategic bit of thinking that says this is important. BBC needs to achieve certain things in this space, and the voice assistant is one way of doing it. What it's not about is I came up with the idea of launching of Isis system and we just launched it. What we're trying to do is achieve some things for the public. Andi along the journey. We think this might be a really useful tool to be able to do that. I get where it fits in. BBC has got a great tradition

off pushing the boundaries of technology it did with RSS it'd with podcasting clearly with BBC I player on BBC sound. So this is just another piece of that jigsaw in technology to get the BBC content to people in different ways. So you say it's currently in beater. How can people joined the beach was there's an open beater do people apply for this, or is it still really too early? It's not too really at this point. It runs inside a program called Windows Insiders. So, as part of developing the voice assistant we worked alongside Microsoft on so therefore it's available in this particular testing program, I think anybody can sign up to be in Windows insiders. Andi, Then you have access to be on. This is all new to me. I'm a broadcast of my background. We tend to do big. Big launches were like, It's not here today and it's here tomorrow. But technology. It's much more about testing, stabilizing, learning from building a user

base slowly on training in the case of a isis, training it so you can understand more and more voices and also training us as an organization in what it means to own and run a voice assistant capability on developed from there. So for the purposes of your listeners today, you can ask me staff and I can ask me bit, but if you want to play with it yourself, then at the moment inside the windows inside this program. So one of the things that I guess Microsoft had a positive and negative experience with voice. Their Japanese development team launched voice assistant. It learned, and it was progressive, and it came out as a very good product. And then such an adult. He decided to demo it at the Windows Developer conference. They launched it on Twitter in the U. S. And it became out as a Nazi speaking swearing female. So launching BB is gonna have to go out very carefully. Questions were Do you see? Be being evolved? Where will it first meet the public? How going? Toe interface? The public. Where do you think the first place will be? The first place

probably remains on Windows devices as we move from a beat aversion to a more general release on Windows devices. But they're very many Windows devices, but not many of them are smart speakers. So I think beyond that as being developed, I imagine that it's going to be something that we begin to create partnerships with all manner off hardware manufacturers and smart speaker. Other smart speaker assistance themselves to integrate this service. So why do it? I think that's a lot of your a lot of your questions getting at that. So if if I can try and make it simple, the the average person in the UK is beginning to start talking to their vices. Ah, third of British adults now claim ownership of at least one smart speakers. A fairly striking statistic. It looks like you'll start talking more and more to your television. Start talking more and more to your in car entertainment on getting things that you need in life, whether that's news news. A big one for US radio stations, content

, podcasts, history, understanding the world entertainment As that begins to evolve, we want to enable the license fee payer to be able to seek a conversation with the BBC directly. Bieber is a great means of achieving that Onda we want on. This is common with the philosophy that we have across technologies were not the commercial agency that's going to do a deal with one or another person. We're going to seek to make it available to the whole market on bake it available toe everyone as much as possible so that when you need the BBC, you can talk to us and get an answer that you're confident came through through us So will it be a licensed product or an open source product? Where do you think you'll position it? Eventually? I'm not even sure what the question gets at. Well, if I was a car manufacturer or I was a hardware manufacturer, do I engage in a license to the BBC, Or can I take Bebe on the the intellectual development that occurs

on adapted and make it my own? Is Beeb going to be always at BBC interface? Or is BBA technology that will be able to be morphed and used for other interfaces? Because if you took Alexa, for example, now with Polly, it doesn't have to be the Alexa voice. It's now could be your branded interface. So could a corporate take Bieber and say, I love the technology that you've developed, but I'm going thio, get my version of Bebe to talk to my corporate interface. Sam, you have. That is, I love it because you that's a very good, incisive questioning, because you raised a whole bunch of important issues in that question. But you're getting down to opens. Also, licenses really at root what you're asking. What is the legal structure is of be Yes. Let me not comment specifically on any particular structure, but I could talk about the general principles that we want to operate under, as we do with everything else we want to distribute. The public is paid for

the content on the services the BBC offers. We wanted to be a widely available to them as possible. At the moment, we do that through a distribution policy that we invite everyone thio satisfying as long as they do that we make it available to them. We aren't about an exclusive technology play in the corner where a public service Andi, I think you can see it with coronavirus is a good example. People turn to the BBC at a time like this. Um, we offered authoritative journalism understanding and depth as much as we possibly could. The public wanted it on. They got it from us, and we wouldn't want in any way for one part of the public access that and not another. So we'll seek Thio, empower the entire Internet community in terms of the technologies and whether they were open source. We certainly have a history of offering open source technologies from our R and D work, but that will happen over time. The video standards, for example, that the I player developed became generally accepted across the industry and openly available on. I'm sure that

philosophy applies, but I'm not going to get into any specifics about the technology here because I don't think that this is the time. Generally speaking, Bieber's like early days. I don't want to over aggrandize it, but you can see it as until ven shin in the Internet ecology, much like we've made in the past with I player, where we're seeking an openly available way for everybody in the public to access this important stuff that you pay us to do. I'm assuming that the machine learning data sets only against the BBC's data set. So Bebe is really using the archives using the content that is currently being produced. That's where it's working against its data source. So you're not gonna be producing BBC hardware. There's not going to be, ah, BBC Home pod or a BBC radio or No, that is not our decision at this time. Some of the press been about being inevitably, there's bean this Oh, the BBC is going up against other voice assistants on. That's really not what this is. We are offering a choice to the public, but when they need to speak to the BBC for the kinds of things

that we specialize in and that we exist to do is a public broadcaster, they can speak directly to us. We are hoping that everybody else sees the value in that on wants to open up that route to the public to and to their customers on DSO were wanting toe work with anybody. Really, from if anyone listening to this is manufacturing hardware and think it's really intriguing toe have a BBC assistant, that's cool, We think as it develops. That's the conversation we would want tohave equally. We're at the dawn of a new age with smart assistance of them being able to speak with each other on be on the same devices. And so if we do something that nobody else does, where the world's biggest public broadcaster, we want to continue to be able to do that thing in a new chapter of the Internet and we think that having this capability to be able to serve conversational requests ourselves will show the world that we can do that, e I get

where you're positioning it, and I fully understand why you're doing it. I think we set off line. You can't just have two, maybe three voice assistants in the world, so we need more portals and gateways. It voices the fourth way that we're going to interface to the Web, that there needs to be other ways When we grow up, our parents have the option. If they were going toe podcast in front of the telly, there was BBC television for Children, which is a public service, that that's one of the great things I think about growing up in the UK. So in the future, when our Children want to talk to the Internet, we want to be able to offer the choice that they can talk to. The public service broadcaster have confidence that what they're getting is something that comes from that same stable of quality Andi editorial values. So it's just having that option on that choice available. It doesn't make me ask the question. Why did you choose Northern Manners? The voice for B, But you are raising a bunch of questions there, too. But this is something that's being picked up because it is so different

to how a number of the other assistance in the marketplace kind of sound on that is entirely knowingly done by us. So I think when we sat down, we said, What is this voice? So we made a bunch of early decisions about what this voice should and shouldn't be. One important one is that Bebe is not the BBC. It has the DNA of the BBC in terms of our values. Andi, that was interesting because we had a little think about what our values are in 2020 on. There are traditional values and our charter, but also you hear words that are different sometimes were much more nowadays about empowering the user on DSO. These are part of our values way. Have a little think about what our values are, then the next process of extrapolation is we know we don't want it to be like a corporate expression of the BBC, but we do want it to have BBC DNA. We wanted to be lively. We wanted to be representative. We also in terms of our values, what paying attention to the way the press was looking at on the debates were going on around other voices system. So there's a kind of

a strong thing about subservient female. I was going to say that has been a massive issue about the way we taught them, shouting out them or admonishing them when they don't answer immediately. There's two aspects of that aren't there. There's the female, the fact that that many of them have female voices on There's the subservience they called assistance on DPI. Put those two things together. Andi. There's this powerful debate happening about what these technologies are, and I think we were just really mindful of that. So in looking at the voice, we were quite keen to cast a more male sounding voice. I'm quite keen to make sure that we at least considered a really representative range of British voices. So it's not that we made the decision on a white board one day that has to be a northern male voice. But we we cast around for what the voices and we looked at options that may be reflected a vision off. Our values on modern Britain were quite aware that this is the first ever voice assistant that we know of at least developed in the UK Andi Most

voice assistance Air coming from Silicon Valley or potentially from China. I think this is quite a big deal for Britain. Toe. Have a voice assistant on DSO. We're aware that we want to reflect all of that in the voice on bond. That's how we came up with the voice that we currently cast. So I should say Bieber's genderless like it is not a he in the future. There may be other voices for Bebe, but certainly in terms of its more identifiably a male voice. I'm very comfortable with that because I think it sends the message that we've been mindful of that debate and we we aren't thinking of this as something subservient. The other thing is that we don't think the biggest his persona in the world, is going to be particularly a subservient one. We would aspire much more to what we think we are in our radio stations and in our television stations and our Internet sites, which is where a companion were much mawr, part of life, someone you turn to for advice but also truth and information and accuracy

, but also kind of keeping you company, and we want our voice assistant to be able to do all those things. But we're aware that in the beater we're not going to be able to be a full service companion to everything in life because that's no one's really managed that yet with voice technology still evolving, So now we were w keen to make sure that we didn't give the impression of a subservient female personality because so much of the criticism is being like that. Will you try on? Do do I think Amazon did with their Alexa for kids, which is forced, the child has to say Please and thank you in order to get the beeb toe work further. So, for example, there is a version of Amazon Alexa for kids, which says, If you don't at the end of a sentence, say thank you or please at the beginning, it doesn't listen to the command. Do you think you'll go that far? You got something very specific there. No, we have no current plans to go down that road, However, What I would say is voice assistants are becoming many households

. Part of the fabric of our lives, in our kitchens and in our cars. They will no doubt have an influence on human language. And I think we are really mindful of that. And one other aspect of that isn't just please and thank you. But it's also the way that English is spoken in these islands. You'll notice me speaking to you with a slightly Welsh twang. Hopefully, English in the UK is just wonderfully variable on board has a national broadcaster. We're really mindful of that, and not just in the UK globally as well. You see in the past has been influential in how the English language has Bean used. Onda were aware that voice is part of that Bebe has a warm and generally northern accent. If you could say, like it's not particularly identify with a particular district, I don't think. But certainly the people speaking to it were aware that they will come from all over the UK. They will speak everything from heavy Scots accent Too heavy, well, shacks or road man or patois. It'll be part of the way people speak to us. So we're really keen to train Beato, understand

as much off the other way. English is spoken in these islands and be part off. Making sure that the English language endures in it grows and and remains diverse and eclectic and interesting is it isn't. You said something about smart assistance, which is universally true, which is they're not very smart now in the sense that we don't give them enough trust. So, for example, I don't have the Alexa that I have within the house. It has my calendar, but it didn't really have any integration to my calendar. So if I had a meeting in two hours time or I had to get on a trainable, which I don't do these days, it could interface to me back and say Something is gonna happen. You need to leave now. The traffic's heavy. Do you see? Be extending beyond interfacing to BBC itself to be much more of a smart assistant. So will it become my companion? You talk about the companion nature, So will it have access to my calendar? Will it have access thio traffic, whether I

seem that will come from the BBC, But will it be broader in its reach than it is currently? It's a really good question. So what I would go back to it is almost like a philosophical out on. So to your question, in my career, I've spent a lot of time observing the direction of the Internet. I think we both feel that the voice stroke ambient stroke aie ecology is still very much in its infancy. Andi. There's an ability for the BBC Onda Public service broadcasting generally to be part of this space aunt, to make sure that we have an anchor point in a world of talking machines, that there's an anchor point for what the BBC and what public service broadcasting is. I think the Internet, by its nature, is quite a syncretic place. You can see assistance, talkto other assistance. You can see that there are interfaces between partners and content. It's not a kind of a naive view of the Internet that we're taking. So yes, potentially you can play a role

in your Internet life, which involves some of that stuff. That's crystal gazing quite far away from where we are now. We wanted to show that we can do voice assistant, that it could be a beater, that it could exist that we're learning what a conversation with the BBC means for people on bond in the fullness of time. I think that we would like the BBC assistant to play a role in your Internet life. Andi. I think that's important. We talked about it being a beater program and how to access it. When will you think consumers will get first access to it? And in what platform do you think you will see it appear? Will it be an interface? The BBC I player? BBC sound? Will it be a standalone application that we install? How do you see the consumer getting access to it first? Like I say at the moment, it's on Windows insiders and I assume it will go to General release on Windows. I'm not going to give you an exact date, but I would be disappointed if that takes many years. 2020 is being quite

a rock and roll so far for all of us in terms of its journey. Beyond that, I think there's a lot of possibility on a lot will depend on partnerships. We have his strong partnerships now, with people like Alexa and Google and manufacturers off various sorts. Many of whom integrate BBC products. So I think we're looking to that ecology and saying, How can we make it move beyond where it is now? So I would love it if that journey is to multiple of those things that you've named, But I'm not going to put specific dates on it now. We're just making sure that it works and also trying to give it some superpowers like it's going to get better at what it does. And I've got lots of ideas. I can tell you about where we're going in our direction of travel, in terms of what the BBC assistant would be able to do. And I think let's push that forward for now on hope that with our partners bring it to, ah, large number of people over time we said in. So let me ask you the same question back to what's in your head and what ideas do you have? What's the road map? The key thing now for Bebe is around. The discovery of our content

on our content is very rich. We have a whole bunch of stuff at the moment. Now you can ask for your favorite BBC sound stations, podcast radio programs. That is awesome. I would like content discovery to become mawr intuitive, So I give you any early example of the sorts of things that would be exciting for us to do. Inspire me? Hopefully. How about an NHS tribute poem by Matthew Kelly, read by Christopher Eccleston. I'll tell you a tale that's been recently written of a powerful army. So Great Britain. They didn't have bombs and they didn't have planes. They fought with their hearts and they fought with their brains. I just pause it there. But you see the point there, or if I tell me a. Q. I fact, yes, Sandy talks big with a fun fact. Sea otters have under armed pockets where they keep food on their favorite stones. Ha ters flaps of under arms, skin or a handy space for them to store tasty snacks. What their favorite? Pause it there again because I know your appetite for sea otters may not be as interesting. Fact. Where do we go with that? I ask

for Q. Either. You could also just tell me a fact. So I think it's about understanding what sorts of things people want to say to us, beyond specifically requesting a program and having the power and the technology to be able to service that request, using the amazingly rich content that we have the BBC and that is a creatively such an exciting door to open because we have a lot of great stuff on. You got an amazing archives as well. What Amazing archive. Ondas, a program maker. It's interesting because if indeed people arm or keen to tell us about their mood or their state of mind than they are just to ask for a specific piece of content that opens up a really interesting new dynamic in terms of being able to curate the world off BBC content for people. So being able to say inspire me or tell me a fact or give me something fun or I'm bored, or have you got something for the kids and us together in the car? So that's really interesting. And then I think the directions of travel editorially in terms of creatively are pretty clear from the stuff that we're doing now

. So what have we done so far with invoicing? Ai? Well, we've launched the Children skill on Alexa won a lot of prizes. It's very good. You can play games with some of your favorite BBC Children's characters. You can ask for a bedtime story and you'll get a bedtime story from the bedtime story strands on CBB, which is pretty amazing so you can get Dolly Parton or Rome s Rangan. Ethan will read you a bedtime story. Hopefully, no, you know. So that's really interesting news. We've already launched the world's first interactive audio news service. It's very good. Thank you. Bye, Alexa on. That's interesting because in a way it's just radio news. But in another way, it allows you to make some choices about that news on. You can move through two stories that interest you. You can ask for MAWR on if you ask firm or this amazing depth of content on any topic we've just recently literally hot off the press. I think last night at about nine o'clock launched a very local bulletins for Leicester

because of what's happening. There is local locked down. We've launched that in English and Gujarati. We've also launched in a whole bunch of other places were extending that out, so we've got a bunch of Coventry Mauritius. Manchester whales in both Welsh and English have got now daily or sometimes several times daily local news bulletins. So you can imagine putting all of that together that we can begin to have a new service that understands where you are is able to offer you really local information, connect you to your community, but also allow you to be ableto in a very simple and conversational way. Go to any topic you're interested in. We just started putting the sport briefing in with the news briefing. So if you already interested in sport, you can go straight to that. And all of that is happening in our Alexis skill or Alexis skills, but obviously have access to the same content. But allow us Mawr measures of control in how we do that. Another really exciting service that we've launched recently is called the Corona Box. And if you heard of that that's living now in Facebook Messenger that is built using a part of the same technology stack

as B, which is about conversational access to content. So it's coronavirus. We've all bean so confused, and as the story of ours, we get more confused. How many friends am I allowed to meet up with? Um, I allowed to meet up with my parents have been all these questions. So what we've done with the Corona Bar is we've brought in BBC reporting into a conversational two way relationship at the moment is on a text based chat platform. But we obviously would love to bring that into a voice environment where you can ask natural questions on you can get an answer that you can trust. There's not misinformation in it. It's not going to say something ludicrous about five G that someone posted on the Internet with BBC Fact check stuff on also really excitingly in there, which I think pertain some of your earlier questions. There's also stuff that we've managed to bring in from the NHS so that it's all in one place. And if you ask for advice about coronavirus restrictions, you have BBC content on NHS content or stuff that you can trust on DSO. These are the sorts of services that I envisioned be being

ableto offer Andi flesh out what we mean when we say this grand thing of public service ai stuff that we actually do, we do local news. We do it more than anybody else because that is a really important part of our public service. We do really great fact checked, accurate information. We do sport. We do some really exciting possibilities in the world of radio and music as well. I work very closely. BBC sounds on do some really exciting stuff in that space. So we are looking at what we can do now that we have our own assistant. That could go beyond what we've been able to do in our partnerships with places like Alexa. Those very much continue to Onda. We're just developing a whole range of new ways to access. The same content were already making so its discovery and it's adapting content types into these new formats. So many questions came out from what you just said. So the first thing is, I get the electrical. I used the news one already, and I can see how you can

localize that and use the top of the pyramid toe access the massive vault that exists underneath, which is the BBC. I can see that now is really a voice interface into the heart of the B rather than trying to be a generic competitors to your Alexis and your Googles. And so if that's the case, you kept saying a couple of words. Discover ability was one of the key words that you pulled out there on. I can see that because there's a podcaster as well. One of the challenges we have is in the whole of this podcast is how well someone find the core nuggets of the information I could imagine that be would allow me tohave topical queries into the BBC that could be local, national or international. So I might want to know everything about Liverpool Football Club that ever gets mentioned by anything within the BBC maybe could have that interface. To me, that is something way. Talk about a lot. I mean, Andre in your time of need. You might also desperately need to know something about coronavirus, for example, or

equally discoveries. Already interesting discovery, I think, is one of the huge problems off this large based Internet. I think it's a problem for the Internet period, but anyway, it's a problem for the Internet. It's exacerbated invoice environment. There's a bit of a rest of the Internet can become more closed. If discovery is as restricted, his voice almost naturally makes it. You ask for what is going on with coronavirus. You are entirely in the hands of whoever you asked on. They can only really give you one result because it's not like you're sitting in front of a computer or even a phone with lots and lots of things to scroll through your talking to something. If it offers you 25 results, you're going to stop listening quite quickly. Yeah, on DSO that's the nature of it. So in that world, we think that there are times when you will, as the license fee payer or as a member of the public find it most appropriate to be able to ask the BBC on DWI want to be able to service that request

on. That's really the root of what we're doing here. All the other stuff, the warm voice and all that. It's all great, but what it's really about is being able to serve the public when they need to know something or get something. Look, I would say that discovery function that we offer in the world goes beyond the classic use cases the news. I'm certainly very interested in the news, but just think about music. One of the problems in music streaming is also discovery. We, the BBC, solved that problem for you by having amazing taste making radio stations and DJs on. We also do that with public service editorial. So we have BBC introducing. We foster new British talent. A station like one extra has, you know, done wonderful things for a British based black music scene. These are the exciting things that we can begin to draw on in, like how can we use boy services to do the same things in the world and get people toe, discover

the world and you are head of product? And he is fond of saying the BBC is all of its content, and it's also the knowledge contained in that content. Andi, it's really interesting to be able to think about how we help you understand the world by using that same content in this new way. So that opens up to questions. What is this tech stack? You mentioned that there's a tech stack for Bebe. What is the tech stack? If I start talking about the text back And if my colleagues in product and engineering are listening, they will turn blue in the face because I'm the editor. So my job is to think of some of the the great editorial applications so they could do a better description of the textile. But with that caveat, let me talk about it anyway, okay? Ignoring everything I said before. Fundamentally, it's about being able to take a request from the public. Understand what that is in for an intention from it on. Be able to match that intention to result. That's

what voice assistants basically do. You'll correct me if I'm wrong there. So let's break that down into an editorial view of the world. So this has been the big realization for me, I think is because you could say, Look, you make the content. The tech does the search, Forget it and that is how we operate in a number of platforms. But as people start to ask more granular questions off the conversational Internet, I think the understanding of that what they mean the passing of that intent and the values that are inherent to the matching of that intent also becomes a part of the editorial. So it's not just that we've got a piece by BBC reality check, you know, which is pointing out that the five G conspiracy theory is probably without basis. It really matters what somebody asked, what we're choosing to answer it with that that answer is coming from on being chosen by the values off somebody like somebody like the BBC, because

there are lots of people wanting to play mischief with that on in my career is a journalist, and as an editor I covered the Social Web. I saw this becoming more of an issue. It was my teams that did some of the early reporting on misinformation in the U. S. Or the French elections on the British elections on they were definitely actors wanting to target the UK public with effectively propaganda for all sorts of reasons we could get into who they were. I'm sure when the Russian reports released by Boris, it will be crystal clear to us all. But that is going on on the Internet, and the voice Internet is just a susceptible to that. Andi. What we have on the open Internet is our platforms, like the BBC News website or the seafaring people know where they can go to get trusted stuff in the Social Web. That's being a real challenge for public broadcasting on. I think that's going to be even more of a challenge, or at least as much of a challenge in the ecology of AI assistance again, going

back to the idea of enabling somewhere for people to be ableto to know they're speaking to us is important. It doesn't mean that were antithetical to the rest of it. It's all amazing. I am so excited about voice in general, not just the BBC's role on Day I assistance in general on I hope there's a vibrant ecology of AI assistance out there. Somewhere in that I want to make sure that when people want to ask the BBC about the five G conspiracy theory that we're able to actually service that request, the one trend that's going on now is a flight to trust. I think people have begun to realize that the laissez faire open Internet has good and bad content within it, and fake news probably is the word of 2019 on. In that sense, I'm beginning to pay for things like the f T I do you use The BBC is a trusted source. I do want to use medium and pay for certain people's content because I want to get that content continually, and I want to support them so I can see that

what you're saying is that the BBC is a trusted source, so B will be that interface as a voice interface. So I can imagine getting my morning coffee, waking up and saying Big, tell me everything about X on It will go across local national or wherever it can within the Beeb. Or it might be, Just tell me everything where Storms is playing on it might tell me Oh, you look you should be watching class appearing on BBC two now or giving me an alert, which says next week on Monday he'll be playing on Radio one XTRA. I get how by listening to you and talking with you how I see Bebe get interface and being very valuable. But it does dawn on me. Just a simple question. I guess you have a plethora of knowledge. You had to build interactive skills. You've proven that with the BBC news. Why didn't you just take that and extend that and take Bebe to be a voice within the skills that you already have and just roll it out that way? Because, really, if I use uber, it's just using Uber is a data source If I use dominoes, if I use any of the other skills, it's going to that data source

. The data sources, the BBC. The voice interface happens to be Bebe, but you could have built that within inside a skill itself and just roll that out. Why wouldn't you have done that? Look, it's a It's a good question on board. The skills route, as it were, is not something that we're abandoning by any means. But I think it's about I go back to that notion of choice. There are limits on what we can do in the current skills. Architecture er on some of that is really, really simple. In our interactive news service, you have to say, Alexa, ask the BBC form or I'm sorry. Ask Alexa more from the BBC, which is its syntax is very limiting, so that's a very practical example. But I think it goes beyond that. It goes to this idea off. Is there a place where you can have a genuine conversational relationship with the BBC in full? I don't think it means that we only want our content only ever be available in that space at this point. But I think we would like to see what

we could do with that and the power of that on. Be able to offer that as a choice to people because I think this goes back to a really interesting question about the Internet as well about publishers and platforms. I think one of the lessons off maybe the last 10 to 20 years for publishers has Bean that there is a bit of an erosion of your relationship with the public because of that interface with platforms. Andi, I think for our editorial mission that can be a problem. I can try and put it in simple terms. I spent a lot of time making content for social platforms on democracy still has suffered. It's not that we were accident from putting content into every new digital platform that comes along. It's good that we do a lot of that stuff. We can reach audiences who don't come to us in any other way, but intrinsic to it is that people are feeling less informed than before. But before I did this job, I started and ransoming called Ducey trending, which was, ah, unit a part of the World Service, a unit reporting on the

global social Web. So I had through that cockpit a view of what was happening in many, many countries. It was really interesting on, but to be honest, in the year before the launch of B, I went and had some conversations in countries like India, where we launched an experimental new service using the Google assistant for the Indian elections on we have conversations in European countries have conversations in the US and obviously the U. K Andi. I also had some conversations the Japanese and Korean people on in all of those conversations in all of those parts of the world, there was a generalized sense that this trust crisis that you mentioned is going on. It's in some way linked to the technological landscape that we're in without being too prescriptive about who or what is to blame. Part of that is sure you got to be that these trusted publishers are living in an ever more fragmented algorithmic Lee controlled space on. I don't think any of that is done on purpose. I think it's something that's happened over time on those technologies enable a lot of great

things, too. But one of the things to be mindful off is this effect on. I think that the voice ecology could go the same way if we as the actor shaping the voice ecology of the early dawn of it. Mindful of that possibility, you're right. Fundamentally, Facebook is now on untrusted Paul of content. You don't know what to trust and what not to trust within it. The World Service on the radio was a trusted source globally. Andi, I can see what you're trying to develop in the sense that B is a trusted source off content, and I can see that extending be to allow me to make intelligent queries or smart assistant calls will be the way that I interface to in the future, because I have no idea what BBC Bark should put on this morning, and now it's gone. They may have had the best interview I've missed in the world, but I will never know about it because I won't go back and look at it. But my question is, do you have to change the way that you encode the content in order for Bebe to be able to access it in the way that you're looking at it, Maybe my lack of knowledge. But how do you access the fragmentation elements off

the audio content or video content in order to abstract out specific elements of keywords within it? Or are you encoding that when you record it? So how would I know? Or how would be know that Radio one played storms it this morning and that he was on class Denbury on next week going to be interviewed? How is that interface working? You'll keep on hearing me say that we're really only on day one with Andi. I'll emphasize that again. But where we are now is pretty good because of things like BBC sounds on I player on the way that we have a whole range of content in our sport site or our website. We have a lot of great digital first content already. Part of the challenge is about getting out the content that could best answer voice style queries So you can see that in the local news bulletins which are being created, but they're going out on the radio to, But the teams are aware that they will come out

and be available separately to voice assistance. And that was a creative person that the way that you tell the story is dependent on where the story is gonna be. As they begin to understand that that could come out in a voice based query. They will tell the story slightly differently from how they would only ever gonna be on the radio. So there's quite a lot we can do now. But the journey is really a long one, like the potential is amazing. Your description of Bebe is better than mine, Sam. The possibilities of it. I love it. There is definitely a lot of development Onda journey to go on to realize the most scifi benefits. If you like. Of the public service voice assistant, there's quite a lot we can begin to do already. I'm really proud of the progress we've made in the last couple of years. We've come out of not having anything, really in this space toe having the biggest Alexa skill, a leading new service, probably the most innovative in the world. Now I think we can get to a never better place. But the journey has just begun on Bieber's, in a way, just a proof of concept. Now, if I'd said a year ago, we'll have a voice assistant technology. So you're able to talk

to the BBC. You would have probably raise your eyebrows on. Now we've at least shown that is possible on. There's a journey to go on. No amazing master. Last couple of questions. How big your team. My individual team is relatively small. It's a number of producers, and we sit underneath BBC sounds, but we partner with design and engineering. So from an internal BBC point of view, um, this may not be interesting to all of your audiences, but it's been very interesting to put forward something like this, which involves, I hope, some kind of cutting edge editorial thinking alongside some cutting edge technology. Another reason that we would never want to compete with the giants of the voice industry is we couldn't but we do believe we have something to offer in this base on. We're doing just enough to be able to offer those voice assistant giants something of real use to their audiences on offer the public something of real use. So I'm not going to get into the specific numbers because it's not big. You know. We've got a

design and engineering division that has 3000 people in it. We have beena technology developer Andi. That strength is amazing to be able to call on, but we're having to do a lot by being clever on working with partners. Andi, really, we won't be able to do any of this without those partnerships, So if they're listening, we're very pleased to work with you all. We'll ask cause I'm a Mac user. Is there any plan for the Mac? And now you're running on an emulator now? There is no specific plan that Aiken reveal now. I think we'll certainly go on Windows devices, but I'm very keen to establish partnerships to get bebe in front of people in if you like more voice native spaces because people use voice on laptops for sure. But equally, we're really interested in the smart speaker on with the interested in other new emerging areas of voice interaction. I think James Purnell said recently, that this is something that's going to be in your kitchen and your living room on. We want to be in your kitchen in your living room because that's where ambient computing was really take off. I've

got six electors in the house and one in the car, so, quite happily, have Beeb joined. May Way would love it. We would love it. Look, thank you so much for your time. This has been fascinating. Can you remind everyone again if they want to get hold of this beater, how they can get hold of it, please? So it's running in Windows insiders. So that's an open beater program you can register to be part of Windows insiders on then UK users are Windows insiders will be ableto access to be beater. Brilliant. Michael Deaver chan. Thank you so much for your time. It's been fascinating. Good luck with the Beeb. I'll be keeping an eye out for it. Thank you very much. Lovely to speak to you. Thank you, Sam. That show was amazing. Don't forget to visit San Talk Doc Technology to discover Mawr Great shows. See you next week. Same time, same place

Mukul Devichand talks about why the BBC is launching their own smart voice assistant called ‘Beeb’.
Mukul Devichand talks about why the BBC is launching their own smart voice assistant called ‘Beeb’.
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