Interactive audio play: BBC develops sci-fi drama for Alexa and other virtual assistants

Sabine Berger Autorin, Hemd & Hoodie

Thanks to the efforts of the BBC, virtual living room assistants will soon be able to do more than simply answer questions.

Whether it’s weather forecasts or Wikipedia articles, our interactions with smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home haven’t been particularly exciting up to now. But the BBC has now discovered these virtual assistants and is breathing new life into them. The Research & Development department of the British Broadcasting Corporation has developed an audio play in which the listener is able to take part through the medium of their voice.

The concept is highly reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure books that were hugely popular in the 1980s. By choosing from different options at the end of each chapter, the reader could determine themselves how the story developed. However, the BBC audio play “The Inspection Chamber” offers much more than a simple choice between prescribed story line options like “climb the stairs” and “open the door.”

The BBC makes the listener part of the story

When following the play, the listener will be able to communicate with the narrator and therefore play an active role in the story. “We wanted to make it feel like you’re having a genuine, direct interaction with the other characters in the piece,” explain the creators at the BBC. Up to now, not much has been revealed about the plot of the play, dubbed a “comedy science fiction audio drama” by its writers. But fans of The Stanley Parable and Papa Sangre will be excited to hear that “The Inspection Chamber” draws on these video games for its inspiration. The play’s story line also counts the works of authors Douglas Adams and Franz Kafka among its influences.

The BBC is set to release the interactive audio play later this year.
The BBC is set to release the interactive audio play later this year. Image: Wikipedia – Galactic Cafe

The interactive audio play was created in cooperation with Rosina Sound, an agency specializing in audio productions. Rosina Sound also helped the BBC to develop the technical foundation of the project, a “story engine” that should allow the play to be implemented on further speech devices such as the Cortana speaker from Harman Kardon or the Apple HomePod. The audio play will initially be released for Amazon Echo and Google Home later this year.

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