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The smart speaker has quickly been welcomed as the latest family member in homes across the world. 146.9 million in fact, and that’s just in 2019 (Forbes, 2020). Equally exciting are the number of creative possibilities enabled by voice assistants. 

Today, voice-driven play is more than ‘Alexa this’ and ‘Google that’. As an interface, Voice is lowering the thresholds for engagement, and together with multi-sensory technologies such as Hand Tracking, it’s making immersive play feel truly natural. 

To celebrate the power of Voice we’ve rounded up some of the most exciting uses of voice-driven play. Innovative experiences that show us how Voice travels across mediums, formats and connects our digital and physical worlds.

Read Along by Google (App Download) – Responding to a growing demand for homeschooling resources in 2020, Google debuted Read Along, an Android app designed to help kids improve their literacy by reading stories out loud. Diya, the in-app voice buddy, uses text-to-speech recognition technology to spot the reader’s mistakes and achievements, whilst giving the user pep talks and collectable rewards. Available in nine languages, Read Along is a great example of using voice recognition to create a playful experience that keeps kids motivated to learn.

Clio’s Cosmic Quest on Magic Leap (App Download) – Wonderscope is a groundbreaking app using voice interactions to tell stories in Augmented Reality. Clio’s Cosmic Quest, the latest Wonderscope story for Magic Leap, is a voice-driven narrative adventure that combines the power spatial computing headsets together with voice recognition systems. This voice-driven exploration is a unique experience, showcasing the power of eyes-up, hands-free play – and with Apple’s Mixed Reality glasses rumoured to arrive soon, we can expect to hear more spatial voice interactions in the future.

Clio's Cosmic Quest: A voice-driven adventure on Magic Leap

Clue with the Ghost of Mrs. White (Alexa Skill) – This Alexa-powered board game adds an invisible player to the mix. The experience augments the classical tabletop gameplay with the ghost of Mrs. White, a haunted character that can be summoned to help solve the murder of Mr Boddy. This immersive audio experience from Hasbro is a great example of how voice assistants are helping toy brands enhance the fun of traditional formats and bolster existing IP. 

Spaceteam VR (Video Trailer) – Spaceteam VR is a great example to shout about, literally. In this VR-adaptation of the classic mobile title, users are encouraged to shout technobabble at their friends to save their spaceship from exploding. It’s a fun and chaotic multi-player experience that is evidence of how voice-driven play with friends enhances our ‘real’ presence in virtual spaces.

Spaceteam VR: A fun and collaborative shouting game

The Magic Door (Alexa Skill) – This in-depth, Alexa-powered game takes you on a journey. The Magic Door is an interactive game that allows users to explore original stories and collect hidden items, solve riddles and interact with creatures as they travel throughout a magical land. It’s a narrative-led adventure that uses the power of voice assistants to add other-worldly layers to a story. 

Xiaomi Ninebot Nano Scooter (Video trailer) – The new Xiaomi electric scooter, designed specifically for kids, includes an AI voice assistant. Built into the system, the assistant offers smart instructions for riding and safety tips via voice commands. As our modes of transportation are becoming more autonomous, voice technology is helping us learn and interact with smart devices in more playful ways. 

Ninebot Nano: A scooter that gives riding instructions via voice commands

Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market (Video trailer). At this year’s New York Toy Fair, KidKraft debuted a prototype of a toy kitchen and grocery store equipped with sensors and Bluetooth transmitters – but the key ingredient is the Alexa speaker. The prototype presents plenty of fun (and parental controlled) interactions for kids to learn how to shop and cook. Interestingly, Amazon has since 2019 been running a Customer Interfaces beta for developers to adapt new types of interactive devices and toys with Alexa. This KidKraft playset gives us a taste of what that interactive future might look like. 

What might this list look like in the future? And which other ways will voice technology be used in order to make play more immersive, natural and connected? 

Our mission at PRELOADED is to be constantly developing and deepening our understanding of play as it evolves. Sign up to the New Play Space newsletter and join the conversation. 

Header Image © Kidkraft: Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market

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Phil Stuart

Phil is the founder and Creative Director of PRELOADED. A fanatical gamer and a champion for the power of games which do more than just entertain, he is responsible for the studio’s ‘Play with Purpose’ vision.