Hello Beeb

Hi there,

It's a quick one from me this week. I'm technically on lockdown holiday because I had hoped to be at a friend's wedding this weekend. Here are a few of the links that jumped out at me:

🗣 OK Beeb, update me

The BBC’s new voice assistant Beeb is out for people who are on the latest beta versions of Windows 10.

In this first version you’ll be able to get to know Beeb and see what it can do. You can speak to it to get live and on-demand radio, music mixes and the BBC’s wide range of podcasts, as well as news and local weather updates.

— What's next for Beeb: The new voice assistant from the BBC, About the BBC

Here’s how I feel about a few of the inevitable early criticisms:

  • Why this voice? because it's what the BBC should be doing as a public service broadcaster, amplifying the voices that aren't heard enough and making sure that we do things differently.

  • Why are you wasting (my) money on this? because developing and sharing new technology is part of the BBC's royal charter and this is, genuinely, the start of something big. Maybe not Beeb as it is now, but certainly the AI and voice synthesiser tech behind it.

One other thing... if you say the words "update me" to Beeb, they will tell you about your local weather then play the latest BBC News smart speaker bulletin (Voice tech site Voicebot’s got an example of this), and it could even be another generic northern voice reading it, yours truely.

🎧 Audio comes to Apple News+

It looks like Apple is nearly ready to pull the trigger on adding audio stories to the subscription service Apple News+ because The Verge is reporting that the feature makes it into the next iOS Developer Beta.

It seems likely that, to start with at least, it’s going to be limited to having broadcasters voicing up articles that have already been written by publications like The Wall Street Journal or Wired.

While it’s been fun sometimes to listen to some of the articles that have been converted to audio like this for other publications — Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Val Kilmer profile being a genuine highlight of the year for me — I do think Apple could be missing out on not having audio that’s tailored to be heard, alongside their audio-articles (one day, we’ll drop the hyphen like with audiobooks).

🦷 Our teeth don’t fit

Nine in 10 people have teeth that are at least slightly misaligned, or maloccluded, and three quarters of us have wisdom teeth that do not have enough room to emerge properly. Simply put, our teeth do not fit in our jaws.

— Why We Have So Many Problems with Our Teeth, Scientific American

This one is fascinating, and I feel like it gives me some kind of out for having what would be charitably described by the Simpsons as British teeth.

It’s a rundown of the ways that we’ve outpaced evolution when it comes to our gnashers and, basically, we eat the wrong stuff which causes all sorts of problems, including cavities (caries), teeth not fitting in our mouth at all and possibly even our sleeping patterns. Well worth a read over a cup of (unsweeted) tea or coffee.

That’s it this week, feel free to share with a friend if you enjoyed it.