New programs from Google and the BBC use voice to steer storytelling with digital assistants.

BBC Radio’s newest program, The Inspection Chamber, uses smart home devices to allow listeners to interact with and control the plot. Amid a rise in choose-your-own-adventure style programming, The Inspection Chamber opens up creative new possibilities for brands hoping to make use of voice assistants.

The Inspection Chamber tells the story of an alien stranded on earth, who is being interrogated by scientists and an AI robot called Dave. In this interactive drama, Amazon Echo and Google Home users play the part of the alien, answering questions and interacting with other characters to determine the story’s course. The experience takes around 20 minutes, with questions like “Cruel or Kind?” and “Do you like puzzles?” that help the scientists categorize a user.

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The Inspection Chamber promo. Courtesy BBC.

The game was inspired by the interactive nature of video gaming, and the increased popularity of immersive entertainment. “We were trying to go for something between a full game and linear radio,” said Henry Cooke, senior producer at BBC Research and Development, in an interview with The Memo. “Rather than making choices about what happens next, like a director, it’s more like you’re a participant, talking directly to the characters.”

Another creative use of smart home devices include the Stranger Things-inspired game launched by Google Home in October, which transforms a home assistant into a walkie-talkie. Users ask the device to “talk to Dustin from Stranger Things,” to which the character will reply “Hello? This is Dustin. I’ve found something.” Following this, users engage in a two- way conversation to help the protagonist figure out the mysterious events unfolding in the fictional town of Hawkins.

 

The Pokémon Company have also created a free interactive app to converse with main character Pikachu through Amazon Echo and Google Home. Pikachu Talk , launching in 2018, lets users hold a conversation (of sorts) with the iconic yellow character, who responds to questions with variants of its name such as “pika pika!”

“Voice is going to be a key way we interact with media, search for content, and find what we want,” said BBC director general Tony Hall. As describedin the Innovation Group’s Speak Easy report, the opportunities for brands to connect with consumers via smart speakers are substantial, particularly when it comes to education and entertainment. Brands can also harness these opportunities by creating entertaining and engaging content that consumers can interact with, creating what feels like a two-way dialogue.