The BBC has been experimenting with artificial intelligence to build a version of the iPlayer where viewers can sign in by talking to their TV.
The experimental iPlayer, currently an internal project with no plans for a public release, uses a viewer’s unique voiceprint to sign them in, rather than having to input a password, and to power more personalised features, such as offering content recommendations.
The project, created in partnership with Microsoft, was focused on identifying a user’s voiceprint, explained Cyrus Saihan, head of digital partnerships, distribution and business development, BBC, in an email to Journalism.co.uk.
"Everyone has a unique voice, so with regards to being able to use a person’s individual voiceprint to sign in to BBC services, our experiment was able to recognise a wide range of different accents.
"In terms of voice recognition systems and voice commands, those systems are best at recognising what they have been trained to hear. As a result, each system will be able to understand various accents depending on the degree to which those artificial intelligence powered systems have been introduced to different accents.
"Over time, as each different voice recognition system is trained more and introduced to wider data sets, it is likely that the diversity of accents that they are able to recognise accurately will steadily increase."
As voice recognition technologies like Siri, Amazon Echo or Google Assistant are starting to gain a place in people’s homes and these devices’ abilities to understand users improve, the BBC sees an opportunity to explore "how living room media experiences are transformed in the coming years".
The iPlayer voiceprint prototype can also offer a selection of programmes if a user asks the BBC to "show me something funny", for example, as well as sign the user in to their accounts.
In a blog post on the BBC website, Saihan wrote that the future of this technology could mean families might gather around a television that understands how many people are watching and identify content that matches their interests.
"The more personal an experience we can provide to our audiences, the more likely it is that they will find more of what they like and love to watch," Saihan told Journalism.co.uk.
"As technology advances further and as the amount of data about an individual’s television habits increases, there is an opportunity for us to create a BBC television experience that is uniquely tailored to each audience member.
"A personalised BBC experience could surface a selection of television programmes that are unique to you, taking cues from a variety of factors, ranging from the time of day or week to the mood that you are in at that moment."
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