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Drivetime: Making Boring Commutes Fun With Voice-First Games

Did you know that over 110 million commuters in the U.S. that travel to and from work alone?

That can get real boring, real fast. But instead of cranking up the music to keep things mildly interesting, you can engage your brain and maybe even learn something new with Drivetime – a trivia app commuters can interact with just by using their voice.

An untapped market for voice

"Our mission is to bring fun and laughter into the car through interactive social games," said Niko Vuori, founder and CEO of Drivetime in a press release.

Granted, car companies have long integrated voice assistants like Alexa to help drivers add something to their shopping list or manage their smart home devices. There are also voice-enabled games with all sorts of buttons and gadgets to enhance the interactive experience.

But Drivetime doesn't pretend to compete with home-bound voice assistants. Its sole purpose is to give drivers a chance to entertain themselves while on the road. Surprisingly, the market for interactive games in cars is still untouched. But it looks like Drivetime may be the first drop in what can only be an ocean of opportunity.

Behind-the-scenes of the voice-first game

In a statement to VoiceBot.ai, Vuori explained that the inspiration for Drivetime actually came from his children. While Vuori was driving, he glanced up into the rear-view mirror and noticed how his children were having a blast interacting with voice-powered technology. That got him thinking: why aren't there any voice-enabled apps for drivers to have some fun too? 

This was beyond what Alexa and Google Assistant had to offer at the time. What Vuori had in mind was a mobile-first, voice-first source of entertainment – not another voice assistant. So he and two other veterans of mobile gaming, Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson, settled on Google's cloud speech recognition services.

Eventually, they released the Drivetime mobile app for iOS, but only in Canada for a trial run. What's unique about this game is that it's more than just a repetitive trivia game with questions being dryly narrated by a synthetic voice. It's almost like a talk show, complete with witty banter between questions read by actual humans.

The content changes on a daily basis and the game pits you against other drivers or fellow commuters who are also playing the game. There are no actual prizes yet, aside from rubbing your superior knowledge in your friends' faces, but the value of such a game when you're on a mindless 4-hour-drive or stuck in eternal traffic is loud and clear.

Funding and future plans

This promising mobile app has yet to be released in the U.S., and it's still being refined based on Canadian feedback, but the future is looking bright for Drivetime.

In late 2017, Drivetime –  the world's first interactive entertainment company – announced $4M in seed funding from no less than seventeen investors.

“Collectively, Americans spend 2.5 billion hours driving every month and it’s exciting to support Drivetime's vision to bring more interactive - yet safe - entertainment to people’s commutes," said Chris Howard, Founding Partner of Fuel Capital (one of the investing companies).

Vuori is understandably thrilled by the enthusiasm of technology and media investors in his mission to bring fun into the average American's mind-numbing drive. With Drivetime paving the way for voice-enabled entertainment for commuters, we can expect to see others step in with apps of their own in the near future.

Voice-powered interfaces are the next platform in technology, and whenever a new platform emerges, gaming quickly rises to become a dominant activity. - Aydin Senkut, Felicis Ventures.

Looks like long commutes are about to get a whole lot less boring.

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Voice Games, Voice Technology

Jenny Medeiros

Written by Jenny Medeiros

Jenny is an engineer turned tech writer with hands-on experience in VR, AR, video game development, and UX-focused web design. Nowadays, she partners with tech companies to help explain emerging technologies simply. When she's not writing, she's likely daydreaming and forgetting her tea.

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