How can we leverage bot technologies to reach new audiences on messaging platforms and social media?
So far we have built bots for Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram in collaboration with the BBC’s Visual Journalism and World Service teams. These bots have variously allowed us to automate our coverage of the EU Referendum, reach audiences where World Service websites are blocked and engage readers who wouldn’t normally visit our sites.
We’re currently exploring new opportunities offered by artificial intelligence, machine learning and speech recognition technologies.
BBC Mundo for Facebook Messenger
News Labs helped produce the corporation’s first ever Messenger news bot in collaboration with BBC Mundo and World Service. The bot sends subscribers a list of news headlines each day that link back to the Mundo website. Users can request more headlines or share stories from within Messenger. Editors can also monitor metrics to determine how much traffic the bot directs back to the BBC website, which can then be used to inform further work on the platform.
A demo of the BBC Mundo Messenger bot. Read more about its development on our blog.
Twitter: EU Referendum and U.S. Election
Our Twitter bots automatically created and tweeted graphics showing voting results on the nights of the EU Referendum and U.S. presidential elections. We built the EU Referendum bot after receiving a request from the Visual Journalism team, and extended the code so that it could be reused during the U.S. election. We hope that the code behind these bots will become a standard part of the BBC’s election coverage.
An example of a tweet from our EU Referendum bot.
An example of a tweet from our U.S. election bot.
Uzbek Telegram bot
Launching initially with @BBCUzbekBot, our Telegram bots can deliver news where audiences can’t access the BBC’s website. In addition to the bots themselves, we also created a web-based tool that allows BBC editors to add custom commands and features without having to modify code.
IBM Watson wingBot
News Labbers Lei He, Alex Norton and Rachel Wilson helped develop the winning entry at the IBM Watson Build a Bot hackathon in October. News is one of a number of sources used to power interaction. Using a combination of APIs, their project experimented with text to speech and artificial intelligence in ways that we hope to explore further in our bot-building for BBC News.
A demo of wingBot.
Connected Studio’s 100 Women Hack Chatbot
News Labber Lei He experimented with new features for Messenger bots during Connected Studio’s 100 Women Hackathon, including an API that turns a single bot into a multilingual product and a method for feeding user input into an automated graphics generator. The graphic, which feature images of the BBC’s 100 women alongside the user’s description of an inspirational woman, can then be shared to Facebook and Twitter from within Messenger.
- Behind the BBC’s Messenger News Bot
- BBC Developers Win IBM Watson Bot Hack
- News Labs at BBC World Service Hack
- Bots in News Labs
- Continue to experiment with artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Assess whether other social media platforms could serve additional World Service objectives
- Incorporate News Labs' work on topic tagging to provide news articles on requested people, places or things within our bots