Future Tech: Google Home Adds Soundtracks To Children’s Books

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Some older readers might remember read-along books from their very early childhood. Pop in a record or a cassette and listen to sound effects and speech as you read along to a condensed story. It’s charmingly lo-fi in retrospect, a technology from a time before you could pull up 100 movies with the push of a button. Still, there’s some merit in encouraging kids to read, so we find ourselves approving of the latest Google Home venture.

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Starting now, Google is teaming up with Disney to release a set of Little Golden Books. When you read one of these titles, you can trigger your Google Home speaker with “Hey Google, let’s read along with Disney.” It instantly picks up on where you are in the book as you read aloud. As you keep going, the speaker provides a proper soundtrack to the adventure. The selection includes Moana, Toy Story 3, Coco, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Three Little Pigs, Jack Jack AttackMickey Mouse and his Spaceship, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. 

Adding a companion experience to reading is a pretty slick use for a smart speaker. It’s true that similar second-screen experiences failed to catch on in TV and gaming. However, thanks to smart speakers producing only audio, you can focus on your primary task. The companion merely enhances what’s happening instead of providing a distraction. We can see plenty of applications even outside of children’s literature: author commentary for a classic you’ve read 100 times, authentic sound effects for a movie novelizations, and plenty more.

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Of course, the current implementation of Disney Read-Along feels restricted. The small initial selection of books and the exclusivity with Google means that not every family can give it a shot today. However, like so many technological inventions recently, it’s a great proof of concept that someone may pick up on sooner rather than later.