Microsoft teams with the BBC to add a little AI voice magic to iPlayer

The BBC and Microsoft are peering into the future of television, where both companies recognize that voice control might eventually play a big role. As a proof of concept of sorts, the companies have produced a version of BBC's online player, iPlayer, that integrates voice recognition and a touch of AI magic (via OnMSFT).

The most interesting part of the concept is how you log into iPlayer. Rather than using a username and password, this experimental version of iPlayer recognizes your "voiceprint." When a user wants to log in, they say their name and a phrase to iPlayer, at which point the app compares the voice pattern with one they previously uploaded to verify who is logging in.

From there, the concept uses a type of voice control that we're already pretty familiar with. Saying something like "BBC, show me something funny" will bring up a selection of comedy shows. Specific shows can also be selected by voice, and more generic phrases can be recognized as well. For example "BBC, what's going on in the world?" will bring up BBC News.

The concept is very much a start, but it's more interesting to consider where this kind of research might lead in the future. The BBC's Cyrus Saihan explains:

There could be interesting scenarios in a typical family setting too. Just by listening to the voices in the room, your TV could automatically detect when there are multiple people in the living room, and serve up a personalised mix of content relevant to all of you in the room. When your children leave the room to go to bed, BBC iPlayer might hear that the children are no longer there and then suggest a different selection of content for you and your partner. All of this personalisation could happen without anyone having to press a button, sign in and out or change user profiles.

Voice control for TV playback certainly isn't new, as anyone who has used a Kinect with their Xbox One, an Apple TV, or Amazon's Fire TV can attest to. Where things will get interesting is when AI is thrown into the equation. And given the increased efforts from Microsoft and a number of other tech companies in the AI arena as of late, we could start to see it permeate more aspects of our daily lives at an increasing pace in the near future.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl