Drivetime nabs $11M from Makers Fund, Amazon and Google to build voice-based games for drivers – TechSwitch

    Fully autonomous automobiles might (or might not) be simply across the nook, however within the meantime, a startup that’s constructing in-car apps to assist human drivers cross the time when behind the wheel has raised a spherical of funding.
    Drivetime — which makes voice-based trivia quizzes, video games and interactive tales that individuals can play whereas driving — has raised $11 million in funding led by Makers Fund (a prolific investor in gaming startups), with participation from Amazon (by way of the Alexa Fund) and Google (by way of its Assistant funding program).
    The startup at present has eight “channels” on its platform consisting of video games and tales you can entry both inside a restricted free-to-play tier or by way of a paid subscription ($9.99 a month or $99.99 a 12 months). The plan is to make use of the funding to proceed increasing that catalog, in addition to investing in deeper integrations with its new big-name strategic traders, who themselves have longstanding and deep pursuits in bringing extra voice companies and content material to the in-car expertise.
    Co-founder and CEO Niko Vuori informed TechSwitch that his final ambition is for Drivetime to change into “the Sirius XM of interactive content” for automobiles, with tons of of various channels of content material.
    In maintaining with these plans, together with the funding, Drivetime is at present asserting a key content material deal.
    It has teamed up with the long-running, well-liked recreation present Jeopardy to construct a trivia channel for the platform, which lets drivers take a look at their very own abilities and likewise play in opposition to different drivers and folks they know. The Jeopardy channel will supply content material from the TV present’s trove of IP and include one other acquainted element: it is going to be narrated by Alex Trebek, with a brand new quiz getting revealed each weekday for premium customers.
    That social ingredient of the Jeopardy recreation will not be a coincidence. The San Francisco-based startup is based by Zynga alums, with Vuori and his co-founders Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson additionally working collectively at one other startup known as Rocket Games since leaving the social video games big and exiting that to gaming big Penn National for as much as $170 million. That monitor file goes some strategy to explaining the sturdy listing of traders within the new startup.
    “Social and interactive formats are the next frontier in audio entertainment,” stated Makers Fund founding accomplice Jay Chi, in a press release. “Niko, Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson, with a decade-long history of working together and a proven track record in building new platforms, is the best team to bring this idea to life.”
    “Gaming and entertainment are among customers’ favorite use cases for Alexa, and we think those categories will only grow in popularity as Alexa is integrated into more vehicles,” stated Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund at Amazon, in a separate assertion. “Drivetime stands out for its focus on voice-first games in the car, and we’re excited to work with them to broaden the Alexa Auto experience and help customers make the most of their time behind the wheel.”
    In addition to the three traders on this newest spherical, previous to this Drivetime had raised about $4 million from backers that embody Felicis Ventures, Fuel Capital, Webb Investment Network (Maynard Webb’s fund) and Access Ventures.
    Vuori declined to say what number of installs or energetic customers the app has at present — though from the appears of it on AppAnnie, it’s seeing first rate if not blockbuster success on iOS and Android to this point.
    Instead, the corporate prefers to deal with one other stat, its addressable market, which it says is 110 million drivers in North America alone.
    Meanwhile, including a Jeopardy channel is constructing on what has labored greatest to this point. The hottest class in the mean time is trivia, with Tunetime (a “name that tune” recreation) coming in second and storytelling a 3rd.
    Drivetime’s premise is an attention-grabbing one. Drivers are a captive viewers, however one which has so far had a comparatively restricted quantity of leisure created for it, focusing primarily on music and spoken phrase.
    However, the rise of voice-based interfaces and interactivity utilizing pure language — spurred by the rise of private assistant apps and in-home hubs like Amazon’s Echo — have opened a brand new alternative, growing interactive, voice-based content material for drivers to have interaction with extra proactively.
    You would possibly assume that this seems like a recipe for a automotive accident. Won’t a driver get too distracted attempting to recollect the fourth president of the United States, or who was often called the daddy of the Constitution? (Hint: It’s the identical man.)
    Vuori claims it’s really the reverse: Having an interactive recreation that requires the motive force to talk out loud can focus her or him and maintain the motive force extra alert.
    “We are double-dipping in safety,” he stated. “On the one hand, we embody the safety aspects of Alertness Maintaining Tasks (AMTs). But we also act as a preventative, meaning that while players engage with Drivetime, they are not engaging with anything else.”
    While the content material at present might function a approach of maintaining drivers from doing issues they shouldn’t be doing whereas in a automotive, there’s one other apparent alternative which may come as drivers change into much less essential and can want different issues to occupy themselves.
    Longer time period, the Jeopardy deal might usher in different channels primarily based on well-liked recreation reveals. Sony Pictures Television Games, which owns the rights to it, additionally owns Wheel of Fortune and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
    “We are thrilled to work with Sony Pictures Television Games to bring Jeopardy, the greatest game show on the planet, to an underserved audience that desperately needs interactive entertainment the most – the 110 million commuters in North America driving to and from work by themselves every day,” stated Vuori stated in a press release.
    Interestingly, regardless of the expansion of “skills” for Alexa or apps for Google Home and different house hubs, and the general recognition of those as a approach of interacting with apps and sourcing data, Vuori says that he hasn’t seen any competitors emerge but from different app builders to construct voice-based leisure for drivers in the best way that Drivetime has.
    That offers the corporate ample alternative to proceed selecting up new customers — and extra offers with publishers and content material firms searching for extra mileage (sorry) for his or her legacy IP and new enterprise.
    “Drivetime is one of the early pioneers in creating safe, stimulating entertainment for drivers in the car,” Ilya Gelfenbeyn, founding lead of the Google Assistant Investments Program, famous in a press release. “More and more people are using their voice to stay productive on the road, asking the Google Assistant on Android and iOS phones to help send text messages, make calls and access entertainment hands free. We share Drivetime’s vision, and look forward to working with their team to make the daily commute more enjoyable.”

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