Last month, the BBC announced that it was producing a new type of interactive audio drama called The Inspection Chamber. Using a “story engine,” listeners would be able to interact with, and influence, the outcome of the story. Earlier this week, BBC debuted the story as an Amazon Alexa skill, and UK users can listen to it now.
The story begins with a computer called Dave that tells the listener that a pair of scientists will be looking at you, to try and figure out what type of creature you are. The answers you provide will help shape the story and bring you to one of several potential endings. The design team noted that they were inspired by video games such as The Stanley Parable and Papa Sangre, and authors such as Franz Kafka and Douglas Adams.
Henry Cooke, senior producer for BBC Research & Development told The Verge in an email that a writer from audio production agency Rosina Sounds, Tim Wright, wrote an original script for the project. Written as a scientific procedure with lots of questions, they found that that particular format worked “best in the conversation patterns 'baked in' to interacting with Alexa or Home.” With each system, users are required to interact with the device after a certain amount of time, so having them answer questions as part of the narrative helps to make the whole experience feel much more natural and immersive.
Cooke explained that they’ve seen more people using home devices, such as the Echo to listen to BBC programming, and that people also used them to play games. “We're trying to make something that sits between the two: the rich audio storytelling of a radio drama, and the feeling of participation that you get from a game.”
A BBC spokesperson said that while the game is initially available to UK listeners, it will be rolled out to the US “in the next couple of weeks.” While this particular project was an experiment, Cooke says that they’ll continue to play with the tools they used to create The Inspection Chamber, and will be “announcing further developments in the coming weeks.”
You can download The Inspection Chamber through Amazon’s UK Alexa Skill Store or BBC Taster.