Google and Disney Partner to Bring Storybooks to Life
A new Google and Disney partnership brings Disney Storybooks to life. When reading out loud select Disney Little Golden Books, Google Home will add sound effects and soundtracks to accompany the story as it is read aloud. The new feature uses voice recognition to be able to tell when a reader has skipped ahead or gone back, and adjust the sound effects accordingly. If the user pauses reading, ambient music will play until the user begins reading again. This feature works on Google Home, Home Mini, and Home Max speakers in the US. To activate the action, say, “Hey Google, let’s read along with Disney.”
During the story, unlike with other typical commands, the smart speaker’s microphone will stay on so the device can follow along and add sound effects. When the device is in story mode, commands, searches, and answers are disabled. Here are the books currently available:
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol
- The Three Little Pigs
- Alica in Wonderland
- Jack Jack Attack
- Mickey Mouse and his Spaceship
- Toy Story 3
- Peter Pan
- Mickey Mouse Goes Christmas Shopping
Addressing privacy concerns due to the microphone needing to stay on, Google wrote,
Though the mic is on throughout the read along experience to allow this feature to work, Google will not store the audio data after the story is completed.
Keeping the Mic Open is Critical for the Smart Speaker Use Case
Voicebot readers will recognize that this concept isn’t new. Novel Effect has implemented a similar capability through an iOS app and is said to be working on an Amazon Alexa integration. The company has appeared on the television series Shark Tank and participated in the first Alexa Accelerator in 2017. In June, Novel Effect announced a $3 million funding round which included participation by the Amazon Alexa Fund. However, the company still does not have an Alexa skill and that likely is due to limitations around maintaining mic persistence throughout the activity.
Disney Increases Its Reach in Voice
Disney, in particular, has increasingly been adding more voice applications, often choosing to do so with the Google Assistant. After the negative reaction to their 2017 Google Home audio ad for Beauty and the Beast, Disney learned that new voice applications are a more user-friendly and less disruptive way to go about content advertising and engaging with its target audience. Disney Games on Google Home were announced in September, and a Mickey Mouse speaker base was announced in October. Google Home also offers several adventure game and storytelling Disney actions, such as Cars, Moana, Mickey Mouse, and Disney Princess adventures.
Voice Assistants Are Focusing on Kids
This announcement follows a trend of voice assistants’ focus on applications for kids. In October 2017, Google announced 50 kid-friendly Google Assistant apps in addition to a Family Link feature to enable parental oversight. In April, the Amazon Echo Dot for Kids Edition was released, featuring parental controls, and also announced Free Time Unlimited. Free Time Unlimited offers age-appropriate books, music, television shows, movies, apps, and games. Both Google Assistant and Alexa have been capitalizing on voice’s rising popularity and user base in order to drive more household interaction. Household interaction, in turn, might drive new consumer loyalty as children move into adulthood, not to mention make voice interaction a larger part of everyday family life.
Tailoring content for children is a smart move considering the market data. Google’s own research has shown that parents use smart speakers more frequently than non-parents, and 72% of parents said they were likely to use the devices to make a purchase in the next month, compared to only 51% of non-parents.