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“Alexa, what is a Brexit?” BBC launches its interactive news service for smart speakers

The BBC has unveiled the UK’s first interactive voice-controlled news service, to let you easily control how much – or little – of various news stories you hear about.

However, it is only available for Amazon Alexa devices at the moment.

Read our review of the Amazon Echo 3rd Gen

Amazon Echo users can say the words “Give me BBC News” to get Alexa reading the latest headlines. From there, you can ask for ‘specialist pieces’, ‘flexible bulletins’ or content from the BBC archive, depending on what you’re interested in hearing.

Requesting specialist pieces will allow you to listen to reporting, interviews and features from BBC News’ specialist reporters and correspondents, while flexible bulletins will prompt Alexa to give you longer, more detailed news bulletins. This means you can set aside the quickfire bulletins usually restricted by the BBC’s schedules and listen to extended interviews and smaller stories that might otherwise be pushed aside to make room for breaking news.

Access to the BBC archive means that Alexa will supplement the BBC’s current stories with relevant clips and interviews from the BBC’s massive radio archive to provide context and voices from the past.

The BBC gives the example of speeches made in the House of Commons. While the broadcaster would usually be forced to squeeze a speech into a narrow time frame to fit its traditional bulletins, Echo users can now request to listen to that same speech in full.

“Smart speakers give us the chance to reimagine what radio would be like if it were invented today, free from its technical limitations. By making the news interactive on smart speakers, listeners can jump to the stories they need to hear just before rushing out of the house, or, when they have more time, they can delve into a piece and find out more”, said BBC Voice and AI executive editor Mukul Devichand.

“Delivering the trusted content people expect from the BBC, this new form of audio news comes at an important moment. It will help people navigate through one of the most dramatic news cycles in recent times”.

Related: Which Amazon Echo speaker should you buy?

The interactive news feature is available on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices right now, with other platforms being added in the future.

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