The BBC has launched its first interactive audio story, a sci-fi comedy called "The Inspection Chamber", available through Amazon Alexa.
Referred to as "conversational radio" by the BBC, whose R&D team developed the story with production partner Rosina Sound, it will allow listeners to put themselves in the story by using their voice to play one of the characters and influence the plot.
The narrative begins with a computer called Dave explaining that two scientists are about to inspect you in order to determine what kind of creature you are - and the answers you provide will then infuence the direction of the story, complete with multiple endings.
The project, which took its cues from computer games like "The Stanley Parable" and "Papa Sangre" and authors like Franz Kafka and Douglas Adams, has been in the pipeline since January. It is currently available for free through Amazon Alexa and will subsequently be released through other platforms too, such as Google Home, as the technology becomes available.
George Wright, head of internet research and future services for the BBC, commented: "[Readers] have an active role in the story, playing the fourth character in a radio play which puts them in the heart of the action."
Rosina Sound's Nicky Birch, who is speaking at the AudioBook Revolution Conference at this year's Futurebook, said further of the "prototype" that while it might not tear the rule book up, it did present a different potential for the way readers can react with stories.
"I think what it's showing is the opportunities where you can talk to content is changing audio - and that's what's interesting," she told The Bookseller. "You will be able to communicate with your content in a way you could never do before. And that could be as a utility, it could be to 'stop, skip, rewind, play me that again' or it could be 'tell me more about that character'. It offers you a different potential to react with a story.
"In our case [with 'The Inspector Chamber'], you are a character within the story, and that is an exciting opportunity where you can be part of the narrative. But there are many levels of engagement and intereaction. You are not always fully one with the story; it can also help to navigate round a piece of content using voice too."
She concluded: "It is interuptive. Although it might not necessarily tear the rule book up, it offers another platform and another way of interacting."