New Google Assistant App Helps Parents Read to Kids From Far Away
A new Google Assistant Action called My Story Time lets parents record stories remotely for their child to play on-demand. My Storytime is designed to use the voice assistant to recreate the experience of a parent reading to a child even when separated by long distances
Virtual Bedtime Stories
My Storytime was created by Google and digital agency Instrument after Jennifer Oliver, whose husband was deployed in the military, shared her idea for a feature on message boards for military families. Parents create a My Storytime account by answering some questions about who they are and recording a personal greeting and some basic responses based on a script template provided by the voice app. Once those are set up, the parent can start recording stories, splitting up books into chapters if they exist. After approving the recording, it gets saved into the cloud and new stories can be recorded at any time.
The child or their guardian can then enable My Storytime on whatever Google Assistant-powered device they choose and start the app by saying, “Hey, Google, talk to My Storytime.” The app will play the recorded intro, ask what the child would like to hear, and read the story to the child, all in the voice of the parent who is away. The app can connect to multiple speakers at the same time to play for more than one child at a time or configured with two speakers to play in stereo. While the original inspiration was families with a parent deployed in the military, Oliver described many other circumstances where My Storytime would be appealing. Relatives who live far away or parents who work night shifts or travel frequently can all record stories for kids to access through Google Assistant.
My Storytime isn’t Google Assistant’s first storytelling tool. There are voice apps that will read stories or play ambient music and sound effects as a read-along feature, for instance. And Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa have both been experimenting with having celebrity voices respond to user queries. Issa Rae became a Google Assistant cameo voice, relying on pre-recorded audio for the responses. That differs from Alexa is using neural text-to-speech (NTTS) to craft responses that sound like Samuel L. Jackson, but were never recorded by him in a studio. My Storytime is closer to the Google model of pre-recorded audio but more personal and a lot easier to change and update as desired.
The app also fits well with Google’s smart home strategy. Google wants people to use its voice assistant as much as possible and integrating it into children’s bedtime stories is a good way to make Google Assistant part of a family’s life. Logically, families using a Nest Mini to read to their child remotely may find it simpler to stick to Google’s product line when buying other smart home products too. Google Assistant’s history is all about connecting the technology to more aspects of people’s lives and Google has even collected data showing that parents are more likely to use voice assistants than non-parents. My Storytime adds a new way for Google Assistant to aid parents, even when they can’t be there in person.