BBC Embraces AI Tech Research With UK Universities


Eight British universities will help the broadcaster develop an AI system to delve into audience habits

The BBC is tuning into artificial intelligence (AI) to improve its programmes and online services, through a partnership with eight UK universities. 

A five-year research project will see the broadcaster work with data scientists from University College London, Imperial College London and Queen Mary University, as well as Ulster, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Surrey universities. 

Together they will look to create AI-based prototype services to consume and analyse data to give the broadcaster greater insights on what its audience is watching and why, as well as how they are using the BBC’s services.

The AI technology will also be used to aid producers of programmes to make better editorial and commissioning decision., with the overarching goal of making a “more personal BBC”. 

“The BBC has always been at its best when it combines creativity with technology. As we reinvent the BBC, we can see the opportunities that data and machine learning are opening up for us, our creative talent and our audiences,” said Matthew Postgate, the BBC’s chief technology and product officer.

“This partnership will help us break new ground and ensure we continue giving audiences the very best in public service broadcasting well into the future.”

Alongside making direct use of AI, the BBC will also set up a range of educational opportunities to help its workers develop and improve upon their data handling and analysing skills, likely to come in handy as data is increasingly being used to inform business and organisational decision. 

While many technology firms such as Microsoft are investing in the development of AI, the BBC’s use of the machine learning based technology is indicative of how smart algorithms and systems will have an ever increasing role to play in organisations of the future. 

This could result in job losses or workplace disruption, but the flip side is that AIs can take care of monotonous and repetitive tasks far more efficiently than humans, and thus free up people to dedicate their time to more high-level tasks. 

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