BBC iPlayer could listen to check if kids in bed before showing adult programmes

Next-generation version of iPlayer could come with voice recognition technology to suggest programmes.

Next-generation BBC iPlayer could listen out to see if kids in bed before showing adult programmes. Carl Court/Getty Images

A future version of BBC iPlayer could use voice recognition to listen to who's in the room before suggesting programmes to watch, and may even 'hear' if the kids have gone to bed before offering adult programming.

BBC's next-generation version of the on-demand streaming TV service is working with Microsoft in order to see how to integrate voice technology into its product for user interaction. In a blog by BBC's Head of Digital Partnerships, Cyrus Saihan, he describes an experimental version of iPlayer that "uses artificial intelligence to allow individuals to sign into BBC services using their unique voiceprint and to talk to their TV to select what they want to watch".

In one application Saihan reveals it could listen out to all the voices in the room to identify who's present and serve up relevant content choices for everybody there. It goes on to say that it can even listen out for the kids to leave the room and go to bed to prevent any unsuitable programmes being suggested.

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"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," Saihan said.

While it sounds slightly creepy, the iPlayer experiment was only created to see how the rise of voice-activated technology seen from the likes of Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana and Apple's Siri can work within its own platform.

The post explains that today's methods of suggesting content are not foolproof as there may be more than one individual watching in the room, or another family member may be signing into the account who could prefer sport shows over documentaries.

Just like fingerprints, voices are totally unique and this biometric recognition that analyses tone, modulation and pitch can match who you are and let you sign in far quicker by simply saying a phrase. Users in the future would also be able to have a conversation with their TV to discuss what they like and what is on right now, rather than having to manually search through listings.

Apple's latest generation of Apple TV already employs some of the voice-activated technologies mentioned in the BBC blog including how users can simply say 'show me something funny' to be served content that might match. Also, Amazon's Fire TV has integrated Alexa's capability to help users search for content.

While there are no plans to roll this out to the current iPlayer offering, Saihan said that it is an area the BBC is keeping a close eye on.

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