Disney and Random House have teamed up with Google to add an interactive soundtrack to their Little Golden Books series of children’s books. Owners of a Google Home smart speaker can now ask the device to “read along with Disney” to hear music and sound effects for select books of the series.
At launch, the new Google Home feature works with “Moana,” “Toy Story 3,” “Coco,” “Jack Jack Attack,” “Peter Pan,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Mickey Mouse and his Spaceship” as well as “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” Later this year, the companies plan to add the functionality to additional book titles.
After initiating the feature, Google’s smart speaker listens to a parent or child reading the book out loud, and then adds sound effects, or changes the music, matching the plot of the story. Readers can also skip forward within a story, or pause, and the speaker automatically keeps track of the flow.
Adding Google Home to a family’s story-time is an interesting idea. However, a brief test this week revealed that the new feature may not always work as intended. For one thing, most of the classic fairy tales simply don’t have that many sound effect-worthy moments.
The read-along feature makes up for that with music that is supposed to accompany the stories, but at times just drowns out anything — including more subtle sound effects. What’s more, the constant music makes it harder for the device to pick up quieter voices, which can prevent the feature from working as intended when children read on their own.
Still, the idea is interesting, and adds another way a smart speaker can augment existing family activities. Stories optimized for this type of interactivity may make reading along with a smart speaker even more fun.