Research & Development


The BBC has had great success with smart speaker applications in radio, news and children’s content. In 2018 the BBC delivered close to 20 million news briefings across Google, Amazon and Apple’s voice assistants.

In BBC R&D, we’ve spent the last few years exploring rich media voice experiences. We’ve published interactive stories The Inspection Chamber and The Unfortunates, design guidelines and user experience studies. We’ve discovered that creating high-quality voice applications and interactive media for smart speakers contains a tough set of challenges, which require new kinds of teams and sets of skills.

BBC R&D - Voice Interfaces

BBC R&D - The Inspection Chamber

BBC R&D - The Unfortunates: Interacting with an Audio Story for Smart Speakers

We’ve also seen a new type of role appear - the conversation designer – which contains elements of a product manager, audio producer, writer and user experience designer. A conversation designer needs to be able to design and script a voice app, but also to manage and deliver the product. It’s a demanding job!

In the face of all these knotty problems, we wanted to bring a panel of experts together to outline some of their fundamental challenges in designing for voice and share their top tips for success. So in February 2019, we invited a number of British voice producers to a workshop to discuss the challenges of creating voice applications for existing smart speaker platforms.

A smart speaker and phone placed next to each other on a shelf.

We’ve written a detailed report (downloadable above) from this workshop which is full of best practice tips on how to design rich-media content for conversational assistants. If you are creating a voice skill or application which goes beyond basic one-shot commands, we hope that the report can help you.

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BBC R&D - Emotional Machines: How Do People Feel About Using Smart Speakers and Voice-Controlled Devices?

BBC R&D - Talking with Machines

BBC R&D - User Testing The Inspection Chamber

BBC R&D - Prototyping for Voice: Design Considerations

BBC R&D - Prototyping for Voice: UI

BBC R&D - Prototyping for Voice: Methodology

Tech Radar - The BBC is working on an interactive audio drama for Alexa and Google Home

The Verge - BBC is making interactive radio plays for Alexa and Google Home

BBC R&D - Singing with Machines

BBC R&D - Better Radio Experiences

This publication is part of the Internet Research and Future Services section