For the complete context please read Part I, Part II and Part III of this series first. The tl;dr is that over a year and half we tried to develop an ambitious voice recognition powered iOS story telling product called VoiceBook. We’d gone through several major iterations, made big improvements in the technology and interaction model, but through user testing has finally realised that the voice recognition tech was simply not adding enough value to users and we decided to shut the project down for the second time…
By August 2017 we had decided, for the second time, that VoiceBook was not going to deliver enough value for our business and our users and had shut the project down.
It was a big disappointment to the whole team, some of whom had been working on this project for nearly two years on and off.
At this point we all agreed that we’d publish this blog post series and ensure that we documented what we had learned along the way so that others can learn from our work — and that we’d never forget ourselves!
If this has been inspiring or useful to you please do let me know — getting feedback helps motivate me to keep writing and sharing!
So, in the final analysis what are the big things we learned and will be doing next?
1. We’re giving away the code
Firstly, we still believe that voice recognition tech has an exciting future in the world of entertainment.
There’s lots of little experiments and ideas out there and hopefully some big businesses to build, and we’d love it if the technical aspects of our project could be useful to anyone working on these kinds of productions.
So the first major output of our project is an open source repository of the code we wrote building VoiceBook.
We made good progress on understanding the most important aspects of spoken word to pick up on and how to make this run on iOS devices.
If you’d like to build something with this, please feel free to — but we’d really appreciate it if you tell us what you build so we can learn in return!
Please note that this code and project is not actively maintained by Wonderbly and we cannot provide any support in helping you run or modify it.
2. We’re making a real book
Secondly, we still believe that using voice to enhance story telling is a deep seam of creativity to mine — but what we’ve learned is that you don’t have to have voice recognition technology to do this.
The moment when we realised that the PDF version of our book was just as much of a hoot as the interactive version was when it clicked for us. Designing for voice doesn’t mean designing for voice recognition!
So, the second major output of our project will be … a real book! We’re not quite sure if we’re going to call it VoiceBook, but we aim to release a version of the story we wrote for VoiceBook as a real book in 2018.
Our story is a joyful, colourful, romp through the concept of reading aloud and *enjoying it* with your child. We think its deserves the widest audience possible and what better way to deliver it than through the greatest kids story telling medium in the world — a picture book.
3. We’re never giving up on trying new things!
Finally, we still believe in trying hard things and exploring untrodden paths. Our company was founded on the back of a question that can never be fully answered — ‘could this be done better?’ — and the VoiceBook saga was a grand contribution to this, and I know it won’t be the last.
There is an infinite well out there of interesting storytelling mediums and technologies to explore.
Some of them will produce projects that fail like VoiceBook, leaving only learning for professionals.
But some of them will result in remarkable new ways to deliver on our big mission to inspire boundless self belief in kids all over the world.
And that’s worth failing for.
UPDATE 16th August 2018 — We launched the book as The Splendid Things My Voice Can Do ! Get your copy here.
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