- Smartphone app adds sound effects and musical cues to story narration
- Audio features can help children with visual impairments picture graphical elements
- Growing list of popular titles available
Bedtime nears, and Dad sits down with his children to read Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
He narrates a scene in which the eponymous bunny hides from the villainous Mr. McGregor inside a watering can as the farmer ransacks a toolshed.
The father’s calm, smooth voice paints this moment as a riveting snapshot of suspense in Peter Rabbit’s journey to find delicious, forbidden snacks.
But what if there were a way to further immerse children in the adventures of the rambunctious hare, by making it seem like they are being hunted alongside their hero?
Thanks to advances in voice-recognition technology, now there is.
Novel Effect is a smartphone app designed to enrich a child’s reading experience. The storytime aid plays sound effects and musical cues in conjunction with the voice of a narrator as they read a book aloud.
For example, the listener hears an audible “sploosh!” as Peter Rabbit jumps into the watering can, crouching for dear life.
Flower pots clatter as Mr. McGregor hunts and searches. Ominous music swells in the background when the farmer gets closer to discovering the rabbit’s hiding place.
The app also aids comprehension for children with visual impairments.
For instance, the sound effects can convey visual information that is evident on the page, but not explicitly written in the story, such as a picture of a flock of sparrows flying in the distance.
“For my students, the real-time theme music allows them to interpret the visuals within the story, without the storyteller having to interrupt the flow of the story to explain graphics and visual features.”
While lengthier books like the Harry Potter series are not currently on the app, it does boast a wide range of titles suitable for those under 12 years old, such as Dr. Seuss’s The Cat and the Hat. And it offers the tale of most children’s favorite mischievous rabbit, of course.
Currently available on iPhone and iPad devices running iOS 8.0 or later, the app will be demoed at the Alexa Accelerator on October 17th, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.