Reading to your children is one of life most basic pleasures and that experience has gone mostly unchanged, unless you’re reading to your children from a tablet. Disney and Google have partnered together to enhance the traditional paper based reading experience with Disney Book Ears. Book Ears combines the simple tactile joy of a traditional book with the enhanced features of your Android device.
When you read a compatible book and launch the Chrome app on Android, your simple storytelling will be transported to a magic realm. As you read through the book, the app will listen along with you and weave into the story a “Spellbinding soundscape”, or sound effects for the less PR speak inclined of you. The effects are designed to enhance the story without pulling your child’s attention away from the book or your reading of it.
At launch, Book Ears works with 3 Beauty and the Beast books from Disney (as a tie-in to the soon to be released movie), available at Big W, Target and selected Book retailers, however, the plan is to expand the range of books going forward. I’ve ordered one of the books online and will be giving it a read with my daughter, perhaps not at bed time the first time, as soon as I can.
Behind the scenes, Disney Book Ears is using Google’s Cloud Speech API to listen to the story and match your reading to a choreographed soundtrack to complement that story. This is certainly an intriguing idea and has the potential to be a great addition to story time. That said I hope the experience is as unobtrusive as it sounds, one of the joys of reading is the uninterrupted time with your children, letting a phone get in the middle of that would not be top of my list.