The Novel Effect is an interactive reading app that automatically adds sound effects and a soundtrack to stories as you read them aloud to your kids. Imagine you're reading The Cat in the Hat to your kids. As you read, there's playful music in the background and the sounds of breaking glass as Thing 1 and Thing 2 subject the home to their mayhem. Parents love the app because it keeps the kids more engaged in the story – teachers love it for the same reason.
The way it works is the app uses voice recognition software to gauge where the reader is in the story. As you read, appropriate music or sound effects play through your smart phone. Creators Matt and Melissa Hammersley came up with the concept while reading to their first child. So far, they have about a dozen classic children's books available in the app. The music and sound effects come from some of the top sound people in the movie/TV and video game industry.
The Hammersleys created the app “to make it easier for you and your child to come together around a book.” Their hope is by turning into more of a “multi media” experience, kids will enjoy books more. The app acts kind of like a recorded book, except the narration/reading isn't recorded. It's free in the app store, but they need to figure how to best monetize it. That's Matt and Melissa Hammersley probably what they want from a Shark when they pitch the idea in episode 902.
My Take on the Novel Effect
I read to ALL my kids every night when they were little. I can still recite Goodnight Moon, Curious George, and Go Dog Go from memory! As I read, I'd often add my own sound effects – monkey sounds while reading Curious George were always a favorite. Reading to your kids isn't just about the book, though. The time spent, cuddled up on the bed, is just as important as the act of reading itself.
When my older kids were little, there weren't any smart phones or iPads. Kids today play with smart phones before they even know what a book is! This early screen dependency cuts down on attention spans and makes kids less attentive to books and other media. For good or bad (I think it's bad), the screens are here to stay – maybe we shouldn't give them to our kids until they learn to read!
The Novel Effect reinforces this screen dependency. Perhaps reading to your child should be just for reading – without the distractions of a smart phone. It's my opinion that everyone – ALL AGES – spends too much time with their nose in their phones. Kids start looking at them too young and it effects their attention span. Perhaps the Novel Effect would be to lose the phones altogether! For now, I'll wait for grandchildren and just read to them. I'll provide my own sound effects.
Do the Sharks Read a Deal Here?
The ABC press release for episode 902 says: “the Sharks are skeptical of their (the Novel Effect) business model. When the press release raises doubts about a pitch, it spells trouble for the business' chance for a deal. Couple that with apps generally faring poorly in the Tank, and it's my bet the Novel Effect leaves empty-handed.