Microsoft and BBC experiment with an iPlayer TV service that listens to you

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The BBC has been working with Microsoft to develop an experimental version of its popular iPlayer service. British iPlayer users can access a range of on-demand content provided by the BBC — funded by the UK’s TV License — and a new experiment is trying to guess what you’d want to watch by listening to your voice.

Using a special voiceprint, the BBC’s iPlayer service can let you log into the service with just your voice and then sit and listen for other people in the room. While it sounds a little creepy, the idea is that iPlayer can better understand if your family are in the room to suggest family-friendly content, or favorite shows based on who it identifies.


The experimental version of iPlayer even acts like a digital assistant, responding to queries like “BBC, put Eastenders on for me” by detecting the voice and playing the latest episode that the particular person hasn’t seen yet. “As the technology advances, voiceprints and artificial intelligence could enable even greater levels of personalization,” explains Cyrus Saihan, BBC’s head of digital partnerships. “If you’re watching a program on your tablet on your way back from work then, later on, when you’re settling down on the sofa, your TV could ask you if you wanted to carry on from where you left off.”

The BBC’s test version of iPlayer is only an internal experiment, but it does show that the broadcaster is thinking about the future. With more and more people turning to on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, or even YouTube instead of live TV, intelligent AI will undoubtedly play a big role in shaping how content is delivered to our living rooms.

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