Google is teaming up with Disney and Penguin Random House to make story time a whole lot more interactive by introducing the “read along” feature for Google Home. Now, when you start reading a Disney story such as “The Lion King,” Google Home will play relevant sound effects along with your narration.
To activate this feature, you simply say “Hey Google, let’s read along with Disney.” The Google Home device will then use voice recognition technology to gauge where you are in the story.
Disney has made audio recordings of classical Disney stories available on Google supported devices for a while now. Their main objective back then was to allow kids to listen to stories and practice reading them. The “Disney Read Along” books usually came as a CD that parents could play to their kids so they can practice reading together.
The new Disney read along feature is more interactive than the CDs because it provides relevant sound effects when the parent is narrating the story. Google Home’s read along feature will also use voice recognition technology to interact with the reader when he or she pauses, goes back to a previous chapter, or skips a few.
For instance, if you want to go back and re-read your kid’s favourite scene, pause, or skip forward a few pages, the device will be able to track where you are in the story to play the relevant sound effects. When you stop reading the story, let’s say your kid wants to ask a question or give a statement, Google Home will play cheerful music in the background until you resume the reading.
Kelsey Gliva, product marketing manager at Google Home, tells reporters at Adweek:
“We hope that it’s something that parents will do with their kids each and every day.”
“As we look to the future, thinking about the context of the family and ways that we can enhance routines that they already do is something that we’re really interested in. We know that parents and their kids are sort of fearless when it comes to assistant technology — they ask lots of questions and they engage, and we know with Disney’s iconic character voices, it’s a really fantastic way to bring this to life. So it’s a no-brainer to continue working with them,” she continues.
Appealing to children and parents with voice-activated tech
Google is not the only company that is trying to appeal to kids and parents with voice-activated technology.
Back in April, Amazon launched the Echo Dot for kids. The device proved appealing to parents by allowing them to monitor their children’s activity, limit daily usage of the device, or block certain songs on Amazon music. The Echo Dot was the ultimate voice-activated device for features such as: ad free radio and music, alarms themed after famous phrases from Nickelodeon and Disney characters and skills from National Geographic, Disney, and Nickelodeon.
Disney is also working with Amazon to provide a similar feature on Echo Devices.
The company created specialized content for the Echo Dot Kids, which include skills like Disney stories and plot twists. However, the Amazon version of Disney’s read along stories are only audio recordings, giving Google Home’s interactive feature greater appeal.
It is worth noting that Google has had controversy in the past with its smart speakers. In March 2017, the company played an audio clip to inform listeners of the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast” movie as part of its “My Day” feature. The company faced backlash for sneaking in an advertisement onto the device.
“By the way, Disney’s live action Beauty and The Beast opens today,” the Google Assistant can be heard saying.
The “Disney Read Along” feature will be available on both Google Home and Home Mini devices. Google mentions that the feature will be available on all Google supported smart speakers and smart screens by the end of the year.
The feature is available now on Google Home. The device currently plays sound effects for these books: Coco, Moana, Jack Jack Attack, The Three Little Pigs, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Mickey Mouse and his Spaceship, Toy Story 3, Peter Pan, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol.