• BBC launches Corona Bot tool to provide Covid-19 information 
  • Bot will answer questions as coronavirus pandemic develops and rules are changed 
  • Service is being made available through Facebook Messenger 


BBC: Launches new tool using AI technology to answer users questions

Source: BBC

The BBC has launched a new online tool aimed at tackling questions about changes to the UK’s coronavirus restrictions.

The new “Corona Bot” tool comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced more changes to lockdown rules put in place to help reduced the spread of the coronavirus. 

The BBC said the aim is to trial new technology to help people get the most specific information, particularly relating to the economy, wellbeing and symptoms – as the UK enters the next stage of the Covid-19 pandemic response. 

The Corona Bot will try to answer questions on these issues typed in by a user. It uses experimental AI technology to draw on the BBC News archives to respond with an answer to the specific question where possible.  

It will also redirect users to other services, such as the NHS, where necessary, while providing access to articles and broadcast content from BBC News. 

The tool is being made available through Facebook Messenger and on the BBC’s Facebook page, though the British broadcaster said it is looking at expanding the service to other BBC platforms as the situation develops. 

The BBC has also said it will open up the tool to technology partners such as voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, in order to increase usability. 

Mukul Devichand, executive editor of BBC Voice and AI says: “People really want their specific questions about Coronavirus answered, from “when will shops open” to “what is the R number,” but searching the internet often makes them more confused.  We often find ourselves overwhelmed with such questions, because people trust the BBC.  

“With the situation becoming even more complicated as lockdown rules change, we have developed a Messenger tool to answer Covid-19 questions directly from trustworthy BBC reporting.  We’re also including publicly-available material from the NHS where we think appropriate, so the UK public can turn to a single place for answers.” 

It is the latest announcement from the BBC during the pandemic. Earlier this month, the Corporation revealed a new shared streaming platform, BBC Together, that aimed to help people stream shows together.