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What is OK Beeb? BBC’s new voice assistant explained

Stepping into the world of virtual assistants, the BBC has launched its own take known as OK Beeb. and it’s now in the beta testing phase for a few lucky participants.

If you thought that the virtual assistant marketplace was getting overcrowded with the likes of Alexa, Siri, the Google Assistant and Bixby, then you were not in the same camp as the BBC.

That’s right the British Broadcasting Service of all institutions has been working on its very own voice assistant destined for phones, PCs and smartspeakers, all with the intent of being aimed at a UK audience, but there’s a lot to learn about this brand new piece of software.

What is OK Beeb?

OK Beeb is the BBC’s very own virtual assistant, designed to work effortless with the network’s existing ecosystem of services including BBC iPlayer, BBC News and BBC Sounds.

OK Beeb is also one of the first virtual assistants aimed at a UK audience, boasting a northern-twinge to its accent (don’t worry, it’s not full-Paddy McGuinness). With a range of accents in the UK, the team behind OK Beeb is doing its best to make sure that no region is left behind, with testing currently on-going to establish recognition for different dialects.

Going against the traditional route, OK Beeb utilises a male voice by default, but there’s no word yet on whether a female voice will be implemented down the line in a future update.

How to download OK Beeb

To download OK Beeb, you need to be a member of Microsoft’s Insider Program and have a BBC account to set it up, upon which the software can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store.

It might sound convoluted, but this is due to OK Beeb still being in beta testing, with early adopters playing an active role in helping to shape OK Beeb’s voice recognition technology ahead of a full-scale release.

At present, the Microsoft Store is the only digital outlet currently offering OK Beeb, but this is sure to expand once the software is out of the testing phase.

What can OK Beeb do?

Much like a typical smart assistant, OK Beeb can play music and give you updates on the news amongst other things, but unlike its competitors, the service is designed to make full use of the BBC’s content.

For example, if you ask OK Beeb for a fact, it’ll pull one straight from the archives of beloved quiz show QI. You can also ask OK Beeb what its thoughts are on any given BBC show, just in case your own opinions needs some validation.

Because it’s in beta testing, there’s a lot that OK Beeb still can’t do – the most jarring of which is set a timer (not too dissimilar to the Apple HomePod’s laughable inability to have more than one ongoing timer).

When does OK Beeb come out?

The OK Beeb beta is out right now for any members of the Microsoft’s Insider Program, but no official release date has been planned for the finished service. As soon as any news drops, we’ll be updating this page immediately so be sure to bookmark it.

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