BBC Global News has recently introduced its new tool that converts written content to spoken word using artificial intelligence, said BBC. It uses a synthetic voice to read texts from its international website.
The project came to fruition with the help of Microsoft, which aided in creating a new voice with a natural tone and articulation. The tech giant also provided an AI-powered program that facilitates text-to-speech conversion.
In an NPR broadcast, the synthetic voice explained how it converts text to speech. According to the AI, “I take the text that’s on the screen and read it out loud.” It also noted that “There’s a lot of tech going on in the background.”
When asked about Microsoft’s involvement with the project via machine learning, it said that developers “based it on many hours of human recordings and finely tuned it to create the voice.”
The tool is part of a BBC Worklife series called The Life Project, which is composed of 16 articles that would help readers “make life-changing decisions during the pandemic,” as per BBC. Each article will be made available in audio through the tool.
The tool will be available across various BBC articles after The Life Project concludes on December 31, 2020. The text-to-speech feature will be available in BBC articles from sections such as Culture, Future, and Worklife.
BBC editors will be choosing the articles which will feature the text-to-speech tool, which will be accessible via a prompt that cues the reader to listen to the article. Users can listen to the article even if they navigate away from the article or after they locked their mobiles.
The artificial intelligence program will be using cognitive and behavioral integrated software, which allows it to learn user behavioral patterns. Such data will be used to offer content that the user prefers according to patterns.
However, the site clarifies that despite the use of such data, the site will still “[maintain] the BBC’s trusted curation of balanced journalism and ensuring audiences are served the most important stories which also feel relevant to them.”
The successful launch of the tool is part of the company’s Project Songbird. This plan seeks to expand the use of text-to-speech to other areas of the site. The company also seeks to introduce background soundscapes to improve user experience.
The introduction of this AI-powered tool is part of the BBC’s campaign to cater to the rising need for audio.