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BBC develops a voice-activated assistant in a bid to rival Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri

Introducing Auntie! BBC develops a voice-activated assistant in a bid to rival Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri

  • The assistant would be available to download free on smartphone and smart TVs
  • It would allow users to seek information by issuing a verbal instruction
  • ‘Auntie’ in the early stages of development and has yet to be given final go-ahead

The BBC is developing a voice-activated electronic assistant in an attempt to rival Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.

It will similarly be styled as a character – currently dubbed ‘Auntie’ by insiders in a nod to the BBC’s longstanding nickname – but will be renamed before launch to make it more ‘modern-sounding’.

The assistant would be available to download free on smartphones and smart TVs in the UK. It would allow users to seek information across the internet by issuing a verbal instruction.

The BBC is developing a voice-activated electronic assistant in an attempt to rival Amazon's Alexa (pictured)

The BBC is developing a voice-activated electronic assistant in an attempt to rival Amazon’s Alexa (pictured)

For example, users could ask the app to get weather reports, play the most recent episode of The Archers or work out the quickest route to work. 

A source said: ‘Instead of saying, “Alexa would you…?”, you would say, “Auntie would you… Auntie what’s the weather?” 

‘It would be your trusted guide to information, education and entertainment. That’s what these assistants are becoming – Siri or Alexa or Google.’

It is not yet clear how the BBC would make it available on smart speakers like those sold by Amazon and Google. 

But it could come pre-loaded on the devices if the corporation can get the backing of regulators to force the tech giants to open up their systems.

'Auntie' is in the early stages of development and has yet to be given the final go-ahead

‘Auntie’ is in the early stages of development and has yet to be given the final go-ahead

‘Auntie’ is in the early stages of development and has yet to be given the final go-ahead. But corporation bosses are considering a launch before the end of next year.

BBC chiefs want to make it easier for audiences to access the web through a British system rather than relying on the American tech giants, according to insiders.

They also want to protect the BBC from ‘monopolistic’ behaviour by Amazon, Apple and Google, which often rank their own products above rivals’.

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