May 29, 2018
All your kid are belong to us: Amazon’s funding a startup that will prepare children for their robot future by reading aloud to them
by Simon Reichley
Do you have young children? Do you enjoy reading aloud to them? Do you wish that an evil robot could help you scare the frickin’ bajeezus out of them while you read spooky stories together?
If so, buddy, I’ve got great news. Former Shark Tank contestant and erstwhile lawyer Matt Hammersley has collected three million clams from Amazon’s Alexa Fund and others to launch Novel Effect, a program that spies on you while you read to your children, and introduces atmospheric sound effects [“AWOOOOOOOOOOOOOGAH!”] at strategic moments, in order to punch up—or “POW! POW!” up—your before-bed reading sessions. Writing at Geekwire, Taylor Soper writes that the money will be used “to acquire more users, grow its internal team, and expand its technology into new product categories and platforms.” Here’s how Hammersley pitched the thing on Shark Tank:
Why the fuck would anyone want this? On the Novel Effect website, Matt and Melissa Hammersley explain:
Just before her birth, our friends organized a literary-themed baby shower in our daughter’s honor and gifted us with children’s book after children’s book. But the moment our future began to take an unexpected turn was as our friend, Toby, read On the Night You were Born by Nancy Tillman to our closest family and friends who’d gathered around. With only her voice, she brought out the simple beauty of the book, adding sound effects for the wind blowing over oceans and trumpets announcing the baby’s arrival. The whole room fell in love with the book, and we knew if every parent could read in that way, every child would fall in love with reading.
And if we’ve learned anything from the past twenty years, it’s that any rewarding, community building, truly soulful experience should be stripped of humanity to whatever extent possible and monetized by Amazon. After all, children are the future, and the future is Amazon’s. Get ’em while they’re young.
Simon Reichley is the rights and operations manager at Melville House.