If you own an Amazon Echo, Google Home or other “smart speaker,” you’re likely aware you can use your voice to play music, order a product, and control your smart home gadgets.
But you might not know you can also use your voice to play games, whether you’re home alone or with family or friends.
“There has never been a more natural way to communicate with technology than using your voice,” says Katherine Prescott, founder and editor of VoiceBrew, a digital media company dedicated to helping people get the most out of Alexa, with articles, blog posts, and email newsletters. “There’s something so magical about these devices – like we’re living in the future.”
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Smart speaker usage is growing. This year, more than 74 million in the U.S. will use a one, up 15% over 2019, according to research firm eMarketer. For now, Amazon Echo has the lead, capturing nearly two-thirds of the market, with Google Home owning about one-third.
As for playing games on a smart speaker, the New York City-based Prescott says interactive entertainment has always been an early application for new electronic mediums. “If you think about it, ‘having fun’ has been an important use-case for any emerging technology, be it with computers, the web, and mobile – and now smart speakers that leverage voice and artificial intelligence.”
A couple of small caveats: While most smart speaker games – often referred to as a third-party “Skill” for Amazon devices – don’t require anything other than your voice, be aware some call for additional physical items, like a deck of cards or a board game. A few games can only be played on a “smart display,” like an Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub, while others augment an existing console or PC video game.
But the following picks only require an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. These are free and suitable for all ages. For all these games, simply say “Play XXXX” to start.
Consider “Song Quiz” (Volley Inc.) a game of “Name That Tune,” that tests your knowledge about pop songs. In fact, you can challenge friends and family beside you, or, if you’re alone, play over the Internet against someone in the same city you’re in.
After you choose a decade, such as the ‘80s, you’ll hear a short clip from a song and will be awarded 10 points for correctly guessing the title and an extra 10 for correctly saying the artist.
The game, which can be played on Amazon and Google speakers, boasts “thousands” of songs over the past 60 years, with new songs added often, so don’t expect to hear duplicates.
The Magic Door
If you like story-driven adventures, this Alexa-powered game (from The Magic Door LLC) has you explore a magical land with several regions – including mountains, sea, castle, garden, and dark forest – and by playing this verbal adventure you unravel the tale, collect hidden items, solve puzzles, and help magical creatures.
Can you help a princess find her crown? Will you escort a gnome to his home? Or take heed to a fortuneteller who is directing you to a haunted lighthouse?
Depending on the decisions you make, the 10- to 15-minute story can veer off into different directions, like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. For example, you may come to a crossroads on a narrow path and must choose between going through a forest, following an eagle above the sea, or heading towards the fiddle music.
The relaxing music, sound effects and smooth feminine voice add to the game’s immersion.
Those who own a Google Home speaker might try a similar verbal role-playing adventure game, “The Game of Castle.”
Perhaps you’ve played around with “Akinator” (Elokence, for Alexa and Google) on a smartphone – where a virtual genie tries to guess a character you’re thinking of – but now this “Twenty Questions”-like game is playable using your voice on an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker.
You must first think of a character that’s real or fictitious, and “Akinator” will try to read your mind. Yes, it could be a public figure like Donald Trump or Drake, or a made-up character like Peter Griffin or James Bond. And then “Akinator” will ask you twenty questions to figure out who it is.
It will ask you if it’s a female, if they’re older than 20 years old, if they’re real, and so on.
It’s eerily good at this – even if the person isn’t that well known.
Ding Dong Coconut
Challenging your memory, “Ding Dong Coconut” (Creatively Incorporation; for Google) is a fun and silly game that can be played solo or – better yet – with a group of people.
You’ll first be introduced to two sound effects – a baby’s laugh and a car horn, for example – and you’ll be instructed to say a specific word after each effect; you might be told to say the word “sofa” after the baby laugh, and the word “hammer” following the car horn.
After being tested on your memory – and you yell out the correct words – the game will introduce a third (and then a fourth) sound to the mix, which makes the game more difficult.
Alexa, is there more voice games?
Yes, there are. Some other recommended titles include: “Earplay” (Earplay); “Yes Sire” (Volley Inc.); “Jeopardy!” (Sony Pictures Television); “Escape the Room” (Stoked Skills); “Heads Up!” (The Ellen DeGeneres Show); and “The Wayne Investigation” (Warner Bros.).
Coming soon: “St. Noire” (X2 Games), the first voice-controlled murder mystery board game, unveiled last week by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell at San Diego Comic-Con. It will be an Alexa-exclusive.
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A 20-year contributor to USA TODAY, Marc Saltzman is also the host of the CNBC’s Tech Impact (www.techimpact.tv) and the Tech It Out podcast (marcsaltzman.com).