Enriching Alexa for children in India
Responsible for making Indian history and mythology accessible and fun for generations of children in India, the house of Amar Chitra Katha has developed interactive quizzes for Alexa. The Chennai-based, online production house for children, ChuChu TV, is also committed on creating voice-first experiences for Alexa.
A powerful story, simply told, is just as powerful today…
Abihita, a 11-year-old, who interacts with Alexa pretty regularly, says, “I think it’d be pretty cool to ask Alexa who Gargi and Maitreyi were or even about the trio of Lal-Bal-Pal from India’s freedom struggle.” Adds Akshaya, her 6-year-old sibling, “I think I’d like Alexa to tell me stories of Akbar and Birbal! There are times when I don’t want to read a book or watch TV, but just curl up and listen to stories like those from the court of Raja Vikramaditya.”
“Children love people talking to them; and what if their favourite character talks to them and teaches them new things with puzzles and questions?” asks C Vinoth Chandar, CEO & Creative Director of ChuChu TV, pointing to the endless possibilities in this field. In fact, this is also the area that Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) is experimenting with currently, by developing interactive quizzes for Alexa. According to Sanjay Dhar, President of Amar Chitra Katha, “This is going to be a work in progress. We are still forming our knowledge of the platform and looking at the insights. However, when we were starting out our most important brief was to exploit Alexa's voice as much as possible and explore the interaction that our characters can have with her.”
Experts feel that content in voice is the latest format in which children today are likely to consume content. As Vinoth says, “We are sure the children will embrace content in voice. Come to think about it, the process is really not that different from traditional storytelling. And which child doesn’t love to hear a good story?"
“The stories are still essentially the same, but the way they are consumed by children has evolved," says Sanjay adding, "The widespread availability of TV and the internet in our lives has obviously had a profound impact on the way content is consumed by children; but no matter what platform you choose, we believe that a powerful story, simply told, is still going to be as powerful today as it was 50 years ago.”
Art of creating children’s content
The storytelling formats today have certainly turned digital, such as the transformation of hand-drawn creatives and the popularity of animated content on web channels like YouTube. However, no matter how the platform evolves over time, classic children’s content remains timeless. “Children's content has been the centre of our universe for 50 years. Starting with our founder, the legendary Anant Pai, we have had the good fortune of attracting some of the best minds in children's literature and arts, who are as passionate about our core philosophy, which is the exploration of stories that are Indian at heart,” says Sanjay of ACK. “We have discovered thousands of stories to be told to millions of children and we know that there are thousands morel waiting to be told.”
Catching the attention of today’s children with quality content, however, is easier said than done. With multiple media vying for attention, it is just as tough as creating content for adults, if not more!
“If someone tells me a good story, I think I would like that most of all; but maybe not as much as playing Temple Run or some other games,” shares 9-year-old Veer Dayal candidly. That’s the audience that ChuChu TV caters to by creating content differently for children to make it fun and interesting.
The road ahead with Alexa
“Creating content for new age children is an art. We cover all fronts right from catchy music, rhyming lyrics, cute characters, engaging storyboards, colourful backgrounds and so on on our channel,” says Vinoth and it is this same treatment that the online children’s infotainment production house is bringing to Alexa. “We are upgrading the ChuChu TV skill with puzzles and questions in our trademark ‘ChuChu Voice’ to make the content more engaging.” The last sound byte on this, however, will always be that of the child; and if it’s anything like what young Akshaya has to say, then Alexa is probably good to go very soon! “I love my storybooks, but I love listening to stories more than I like reading them or watching them on TV.”