×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Amazon Alexa Gets First Interactive Audio Original, Courtesy of Xandra (EXCLUSIVE)

First there was “Bandersnatch,” now there is “Tala’s World.”

Interactive media is making the jump to smart speakers, starting with a new serialized young adult adventure series produced by audio startup Xandra, and licensed exclusively by Amazon. “Tala’s World” consists of seven episodes, which invite listeners to come along on an audio adventure that involves collecting clues, interviewing suspects, and ultimately solving a crime.

Participants are guided through the world of the show by a elven-like character called Blobby (pictured above), who wants to investigate the disappearance of his best friend Tala. The only problem: Blobby is terribly nervous, and quickly intimidated by some of the other characters in the show. With that, it’s up to the listener to make key decisions, lead interrogations, and ultimately solve the show’s mystery.

The first episode of “Tala’s World” is being released exclusively for Alexa devices this coming Monday, with the second episode following on Dec. 13. Subsequent episodes will follow every two weeks until the show concludes in late February. The first two episodes will be available for free to everyone, and access to subsequent installments can be unlocked for a one-time payment of $4.99. Subscribers to Amazon’s Freetime service get access to the entire series for free.

“Tala’s World showcases how voice can enhance immersive storytelling, providing users with an engaging way to influence a plot’s outcome,” said Amazon Alexa skills director Joe Balzarini. “We’re thrilled that Xandra has created a voice-first experience that demonstrates how many creative possibilities exist for interactive storytelling.”

Popular on Variety

Xandra previously produced Alexa skills for clients like HBO, Sesame Workshop and Ubisoft, and has been recognized with multiple Clio awards for its work. CEO Zach Johnson told Variety during a recent interview that the company long had plans to launch its original IP for smart speakers and take interactive audio beyond the one-off skills and games that dominate the Alexa skills catalog today.

“The majority of the games are short-form,” Johnson said. With “Tala’s World,” Xandra instead wants to fill the void between interactive skills and long-form narrative podcasts. Each episode is between 15 and 20 minutes long, depending on the path that users take. Johnson said he expects users to play one episode at a time, and then revisit the adventure at a later time. “Bingeing on it is quite an ask,” he said.

Xandra relied on professional voice actors, and not Alexa’s text-to-speech engine, to tell the story of “Tala’s World.” This required a few interesting tweaks to help with the suspension of disbelief. In the first episode, Blobby asks the listener for her or his name — only to then decide that it is too complicated to repeat.

Users are also frequently asked to remember and repeat key phrases, but the story is forgiving if listeners don’t get it quite right. It doesn’t require too much recollection from episode to episode since “the memory mechanics are designed for kids,” Johnson said.

And while “Tala’s World” is designed as a voice-first experience with smart speakers in mind, Xandra also added original artwork for devices like the Echo Show, or Fire TVs with Alexa. “More and more Echo devices have screens,” Johnson said. “With each episode, you are getting multiple images.”

Amazon has been commissioning original audio content for Audible for some time, and has also been producing originals for its Prime Video service. However, this is the first time the company has licensed original interactive audio content for Alexa.

With millions of consumers buying smart speakers, and audio assistants finding their way into many more devices, there’s a chance that we’ll see many more such stories in the future.

“There is a huge appetite for interactive content,” Johnson said.

More Digital

  • ICM Partners

    ICM Partners Promotes Six Agents to Partner Status

    ICM Partners has promoted six agents to partner status. ICM’s partner class of 2020 features four women and two men drawn from disciplines across the agency: Courtny Catzel (Non-Scripted), Di Glazer (Theater), Shade Grant (Non-Scripted), Andrea Johnson (Concerts), Craig Shapiro (Talent) and Howie Tanenbaum (TV). The promotions bring the number of partners at ICM to [...]

  • Podcast Company Meet Cute Raises $3

    Shari Redstone's Advancit Capital Among Investors in Podcast Company Meet Cute (EXCLUSIVE)

    Meet Cute, a New York-based podcast company that focuses on romantic comedies, has secured more than $3 million in funding from a group of investors, including Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital and venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. Meet Cute CEO Naomi Shah did not disclose the exact dollar amounts from each company, but revealed that [...]

  • Pluto TV Grows U.K. Offering With

    Pluto TV Grows U.K. Offering With 'Made in Britain' and 'Brit-pocalypse' Channels

    ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV streaming service is expanding its U.K. offering with new channels dedicated to British film and TV fare and cataclysmic miniseries. Pluto TV Made in Britain is a 24/7 channel showcasing film and TV favorites, documentaries and celebrity shows. From momentous periods in British history to stories of pop icons, athletes, famous criminals and the royal [...]

  • Disney Myth A Frozen Tale

    ‘Frozen 2’-Inspired VR Film ‘Myth’ Creates Beautifully Immersive ‘Fairy Tale Within a Fairy Tale’

    With “Myth: A Frozen Tale,” Disney Animation has crafted a visually stunning virtual-reality short film — a project that flexes its VR muscles but deftly uses the technology in service of storytelling. Sometimes VR experiences feel like proof-of-concepts straining to justify their 3D settings. “Myth,” by contrast, employs virtual reality so effectively it feels like [...]

  • Logan Paul Ninja Spree

    How Logan Paul and Ninja Helped 'Spree' Cast Capture Influencer Culture Gone Wild

    When it came to depicting the gonzo nature of influencer culture, “Spree” stars Joe Keery and Sasheer Zamata and director Eugene Kotlyarenko did a deep dive into the haves and have-nots of the internet. “Spree,” which premiered Friday at Sundance Film Festival, follows a rideshare driver named Kurt Kunkle (Keery) who will stop at nothing [...]

  • Activision-Blizzard-Overwatch-League-Grand-Finals-2018

    YouTube Scores Exclusive Streaming for Activision Blizzard's E-Sports, Including Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues

    YouTube landed a multiyear deal as the exclusive live-streaming partner for Activision Blizzard’s e-sports events worldwide, including Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, Hearthstone Esports. The agreement (which excludes China) promises to give a big boost to YouTube Gaming, the video giant’s dedicated home for all things related to games. It’s also a loss for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content