Learning is fun. And voice has the ability to elevate education to the next level. RAIN partnered with Age of Learning (AoL) and Google to bring AoL’s ABCmouse educational experience to Google Assistant with a custom Action. Through a voice-first interface, ABCmouse’s award-winning content immerses children in a conversational journey that adds a new dimension to how they learn at home.

Throughout the experience on smart displays, mobile phones, or smart speakers, the ABCmouse character leads children through an exciting sequence of letter songs, story times, sing-alongs, and letter tracing activities — all focused on cultivating their mastery of the alphabet through vibrant audio and animation.

The ABCmouse action tapped into an area rife with opportunity — new forms of at-home learning — especially as kids have been spending more time cooped up during the pandemic. As AoL Chief Strategy Officer Sunil Gunderia said in 2020, “In the environment we are now with the school closures, the ability to use something like speech recognition to serve as a way to provide kids meaningful feedback in terms of how they can improve in their reading, fluency or their pronunciation is really compelling.”

We see this experience as emblematic of the opportunities for education-oriented brands to bring their content to life through an entirely new modality for children growing up in the voice-first era.

Here are some of the key considerations that went into designing this experience and the features that resulted. 

Designing for Children

Voice-led experiences for kids are still in the early stages, especially when it comes to blending visuals and audio. As a result, building a voice application for children is no easy task. When thinking about how to serve the needs of kids who span 2 to 8 years of age, it’s crucial to not only think about the kids’ experience and the brand experience, but also how voice encourages a communal family experience. And when focusing on education, we needed to strike the right balance between the learning and gamification components.

Embarking on the ABCmouse Experience

From ABCmouse’s impressive collection of content, we adapted specific experiences to voice, including alphabet songs and stories, sing-alongs. and a letter-tracing mechanic. These content packages guide children to practice their alphabet skills while providing a lively tour through the ABCmouse realm. We focused on simple, proven language learning-based content with lightweight voice interactivity so that children using devices with or without screens accessed the same key story narrative.

When focusing on education, we needed to strike the right balance between the learning and gamification components.

With the letter song, children can pick a letter of choice and launch into a catchy tune, helping the child to enunciate a variety of words built around the letter. For storytime, the experience reads a lively story dedicated to a word that starts with the letter (i.e. Zebra for Z).

In the sing-along, users join an upbeat chorus of other voices singing well-known tunes that encourage the children to…well, sing along! As children delve into the move-it flow, ABCmouse hypes the users to get active and dance, creating an interactive experience for the mind and body.

Meshing together voice and touch, the letter tracing activity for smart displays allows the children to practice writing letters. The activity proved to be one of the most popular pieces of content, as it allowed children a tactile outlet to apply what they just learned.

Inspiring Independence and Engagement

Kids don’t have the longest attention spans. To capture their attention and immerse them in the content, we needed to captivate them regardless of whether they are using a smart display or speaker-only devices.

ABCmouse is a fun, friendly personality who also provides a helping hand in the face of distraction or challenge. When there are inevitable speech errors or silences, the character gently guides them back to the activity. 

Because we provide a transition menu between content, children have the independence to choose their journey. However, we made sure to include an option to repeat the activity. Kids love re-experiencing interactive educational content — an insight we’ve learned from the many other voice experiences we’ve built for children.

To engage children and inspire them to share their learnings at the end of a letter song, storytime, or tracing game, ABCmouse asks players a question such as “What’s your favorite word that starts with the letter ‘G’?” After the child responds, ABCmouse affirms their choice. In addition, to further elevate their command over the alphabet, ABCmouse offers consonant and vowel support if the child asks to learn about these types of letters.

Kids don’t have the longest attention spans. To capture their attention and immerse them in the content, we needed to captivate them regardless of whether they are using a smart display or speaker-only devices.

Even as children play on their own, family members are important outside characters to weave into the narrative. We provided explicit call-outs for family participation at specific moments. To encourage application of the information the children just digested, the application sends them on adventures within their homes, like finding a certain object that starts with a letter and showing it to their parents. 

Building the Future of Voice-Led Education

As the pandemic continues to transform education, ushering in voice as a digital tool to foster directness, participation, and enrichment, the ABCmouse action demonstrates voice-led learning can be both fun and effective. With the need for more innovative educational instruments that hold children’s attention, we hope this experience serves as an inspiration for the role voice can play. 

Interested in building your own branded voice experience? Contact us at hello@rain.agency.