A technology based on the suggestion of the Olivers, a military family whose father was deployed, has turned into a way for families to connect no matter where they’re located: Google’s My Storytime. The program, which works through Google Assistant, enables children to hear their favorite books read in the voices of loved ones via recordings available for use at any time.
“Every night at our house, bedtime means storytime with Dad,” Jennifer Oliver recalled on a Google blog post. “A time when our daughters get to share an experience that’s just between them, get to share storylines and characters with Dad, and I get a few minutes to myself.”
Jennifer explains that life changed after her husband’s deployment. “Getting recordings of stories from Dad halfway around the world is technically tricky,” she said. “Listening to him read The Wind in the Willows involved downloading each file from Drive and casting it to a Nest Mini. We knew there had to be a better way.”
An idea struck. Jennifer approached Portland-based Instrument, a tech company that designs interactive environments. Jennifer’s vision became a collaboration between her family, Instrument, and Experiments with Google, which is described like this: “Experiments are projects that push the boundaries of art, technology, design and culture. Experiments inspire, teach, and delight.” It was this collaboration that led to the birth of My Storytime.
How Google My Storytime Works
Google Assistant can be accessed on a number of devices including Google Home devices, smartphones, smartwatches and cars. The program has an option for kids to hear stories narrated by others, along with My Storytime, where stories have been recorded especially for them.
Setting up the ability to record is fairly easy. Users answer a few questions, then begin recording. The reader even has the ability to break the recordings into chapters that correspond with the book. A personal greeting for the child makes My Storytime recordings all the more special.
Once the audio file is complete, it lives securely in the cloud, ready to be heard. Kids can access the recordings with the help of an adult on their Google Assistant-enabled device. The app allows multiple stories to be read to multiple children at the same time, as long as they have an available speaker. This lets parents read books that are specific to each child and their interests.
Who My Storytime Reaches
“My daughters and I shared our own experiences and ideas in hopes that it would be useful to the more than 100,000 military parents who deploy every year—and the nearly 250,000 children who are back home,” Jennifer said on Google’s blog. “According to one organization, United Through Reading, that’s 40 million bedtime stories missed each year by military children.”
Although My Storytime was initially developed for military families experiencing long deployments, the program is now widely used by parents who travel frequently for work, grandparents or relatives that live far away or even parents whose work schedule causes them to frequently miss bedtime stories. My Storytime has created a way for loved ones to share their special good nights.