How digital assistants make stories richer

The bed time story might seem like the last place that will be disrupted by technology, but the centuries old practice is nonetheless having some interesting innovations enter the space.

One such is an app, called Novel Effect that uses voice-recognition technology to provide sound effects to your story as you read.  The app, which works with a number of IoT devices, such as Alexa, aims to make the reading experience more engaging.

At the moment, the app is in beta mode and therefore free to consumers.  It comes with sound effects for a small handful of books, including Where the Wild Things Are.  The aim at the moment is to monetize the service via affiliate related partnerships with retailers, so commissions are earned when users buy books via the app.

Eventually however, they hope to develop the app such that they can charge $5 per month to use it.  They are already developing partnerships with a number of publishers to allow their sound effects to work with a greater number of stories.

The app coincides with the rise in usage of digital assistants, with research showing that around 20% of us use such a service at least once a month, with this significantly higher among 25-34 year olds who might be getting children of their own soon (if not already).

The app is able to detect the part of the book you’re in simply by listening out for your words.  This renders it capable of detecting rapidly the page you’re on, and playing the appropriate sounds for that section.  The company hope to eventually develop the capability for users to record their own sounds and add them to the story.

It’s undoubtedly a clever technology, but I do wonder if it’s attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist.  I’m sure as anyone that has read any kind of bedtime story will attest, half of the fun is making up the sounds that accompany the story, so I do wonder if digitizing that process takes the enjoyment out of the whole process for both adult and child.  As a proof of concept however, it’s certainly interesting and the number of services designed for digital assistants is surely only going to rise.