Why Encyclopædia Britannica’s “Guardians of History” Is a Lovable Voice Experience

Mike Edmonds
4 min readAug 13, 2019

Ambient technologies such as voice are not only the future — they can also meet today’s business needs. A case in point: Encyclopædia Britannica’s Guardians of History, an interactive voice-activated adventure where kids time travel through ancient history to save the future from forces that threaten history. The key to its success: co-creation and putting the audience first.

How Voice Supports the Mission of Britannica

Britannica’s mission is to inspire curiosity and the joy of learning. Guardians of History delivers on that mission by combining interactive storytelling with voice. Storytelling is one of the most powerful means to teach and inspire. Stories forge connections among people, and between people and places. A voice platforms allow you to have a conversation with your customers in a unique way, such as guiding kids through time-travel adventures. Storytelling and voice form a perfect overlap for Britannica, a trusted source on history, and voice technologies.

According to Ryan Bond, Director of Digital Consumer Products at Britannica, using voice is crucial to helping kids learn and explore in a natural way — something we’re passionate about at Moonshot. So naturally we were thrilled to collaborate with Britannica to develop and deliver the experience.

The first episode, “The Olympia Obstacles,” provides a choice-driven experience where players travel back in time to the ancient city of Olympia, Greece. As players immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of Olympia, they learn about history in a fun way.

“Using your voice means that you have a hands-free experience, which means you can explore history in a more immersive way,” Ryan said. “When you hear the sounds of a Greek marketplace and you hear the sounds of a blacksmith, you let your mind wander in a different way.”

How to Put the Audience First with Voice

Designing a voice-guided experience for kids has meant “embracing the unknown,” in the words of our voice practice lead Raika Sarkett. “In many ways, voice is the Wild West,” she said. “There isn’t a formula or best practices yet for conversational interfaces. We have the opportunity to help collaboratively make this new technology lovable.” Making the technology lovable means designing voice experience that require us to not only understanding how kids learn but also how they interact with their Alexa and Google Home devices today.

The auditory experience and level of interactions needed to play were crucial elements to designing a lovable voice experiences for kids. Every kid we talked to told us they love to play music with their smart speakers. To ensure we were being authentic and living out Britannica’s values, we ensured that the auditory experience is authentic to the times. For instance, as users explore ancient Greece, they hear sounds of instruments that really existed at the time, such as the sound of a salpinx, a trumpet-like instrument used to announce the imminent start of a race. (For more about our research approach for Guardians of History, see the Mind the Product article, “Finding a New Tool to Develop a New Product.”)

Collaboration Is Key to Succeed with Voice

Whether we’ve been devising the narrative or designing the experience, collaboration has been essential between Encyclopaedia Britannica, Moonshot, and our audience. According to Sandy Jachs, our client partner who was hands-on in the engagement, “We had multiple teams contributing to the creative development process, so working together to establish a technical framework around which a compelling story was built assured a smooth handoff to our development team — and something we’re really proud of. There were a lot of good cooks in this particular kitchen.” We get to unexpected and exciting places when we bring people with different mindsets and backgrounds together.

Now that Guardians of History is live, we’re collaborating on the next episode. Ryan said, “Moonshot has been instrumental in getting us in a place to do more episodic releases that will decrease costs and time — instead of one every six months, perhaps one each month.”

Ready to Explore Voice?

To experience Guardians of History, note that it is available on all Alexa and Google Assistant devices, as well as any smartphone, either through the Alexa app or the Google Assistant app. Start the game simply by saying “Alexa, install Guardians of History,” or “Google, open Guardians of History.” And to learn more about how we can help you create lovable voice-based experiences, contact Moonshot.



Mike Edmonds

strategy @Microsoft | educator @Northwestern | ex cofounder @MoonshotIO | digital enthusiast | change agent | team player