Today’s kids are too young to remember Disney’s read-along books and records, which combined narration and sounds with physical books to make reading more entertaining. But they may have laid their hands on more modern sound books that have buttons you press at various parts of the story to punctuate the action. Now, Google is launching the 2018 version of this “storytime + sounds” experience. In partnership with Disney, the company is introducing an interactive storytelling feature for Google Home devices which combines real world books with voice recognition technology.
The new storytime experiences will work with a selection of Little Golden Books, as they’re read out loud, explains Google.
Currently, Google supports titles like Moana, Toy Story 3, Coco, Jack Jack Attack, along with classics like Peter Pan, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Three Little Pigs, Mickey Mouse and his Spaceship, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
These new Little Golden Books will be on sale this week alongside Google Home Mini devices in stores like Walmart, Target and Barnes & Noble, the company says.
To get started, you say, “Hey Google, let’s read along with Disney.”
As the child – or parent – reads the book out loud, Google Home will play relevant sound effects and music to bring the story to life.
But unlike those spinning records kids played in past decades, Google Assistant is much smarter about knowing when to chime in. It knows, for example, if you’ve skipped ahead in the book, or if you’ve taken a break from reading because of an interruption – like when the child asks a question or inserts their own commentary.
At this point, the assistant will play ambient music in the background until you begin reading again.
At launch, the feature is available on Google Home / Home Mini devices, but the company says it will come to other smart speakers and Smart Displays that have Google Assistant built-in by the end of the year.
The new storytelling feature isn’t Disney’s first foray into voice assistant-based entertainment on smart speakers. It also offers a variety of other Disney games on Google Home. And Disney works with Amazon on its Echo devices, too.
It has launched publicly available Alexa skills for kids, and it partnered with Amazon on the Echo Dot Kids edition for specialized content, including exclusive skills like “Disney Plot Twist,” and “Disney Stories,” among other things. However, the Amazon version of “Disney’s Stories” is just a skill where kids can listen to audible stories – it’s not designed to work with accompanying physical books.
The initial titles are on sale starting this week at local stores, but Google says more will be released before year-end.