The BBC has teamed up with Amazon to produce The Inspection Chamber, an interactive sci-if drama that can be experienced using an Alexa-powered smart speaker such as the Echo or Echo Dot. Here’s everything you need to know, including how to listen to and play this next-gen experience right now.
What is The Inspection Chamber?
The BBC calls this innovative drama an ‘experimental interactive voice experience’, one of the first of its kind. Rather than simply playing out like a traditional radio show, the listener actually plays an active role in proceedings, as one of the cast members.
At key moments you’ll be prompted by another character to speak your mind. The way you react to situations determines the direction the story takes, similar to those old ‘choose your own adventure’ books. With a number of different endings on offer, replayability is certainly high.
The Inspection Chamber was created by BBC‘s Research & Development division, in collaboration with production company Rosina Sound. You can expect similar experiences to be released in the future if this title is a hit, as the software behind it all was developed from the ground up.
Coincidentally, we just played a very similar interactive drama, based on the Stranger Things show on Netflix. The Stranger Things audio game can be experienced right now on Google Home speakers.
How to play The Inspection Chamber on Alexa devices
The Inspection Chamber is available right now on Echo devices and other Alexa-powered gadgetry, via the Alexa Skill Store.
To download The Inspection Chamber from the Alexa Skill Store, first you’ll want to open the Alexa app onto your iPhone or Android smartphone. If you haven’t already got this, download it from your mobile’s app store and then sign in with your Amazon account details and you’ll be ready to rock.
Now, ask Alexa to play The Inspection Chamber and the skill will be downloaded.
The BBC is expecting to bring the story to other devices in the near future, possibly including Google’s Home smart speakers (which uses the Google Now assistant). So don’t fret if you don’t have an Alexa speaker in your home, or anything else that’s Alexa compatible.
The Inspection Chamber review
We checked out The Inspection Chamber on our Echo speaker first thing this morning, and it’s certainly an interesting experiment. At its heart it’s a 20-minute radio drama, with a few moments where you can interact by saying a word or two.
The setup is pretty simple: you’re an unidentified being who finds him/her/itself held captive by a pair of space-based humans. They’re attempting to pigeonhole you neatly into a category in their computer database, who’s referred to as Dave - just one of a handful of sci-fi references.
The tone is very much silly humour, a kind of Douglas Adams lite. While the material never reaches the rib-tickling heights of Hitchhiker’s Guide, The Inspection Chamber is occasionally amusing in its own way.
Sadly most of your interactions don’t appear to make any real difference to the story, or even the direct responses other characters. Even at the very end, you’ll be asked to make a choice which we thought would set up different endings; but instead we were ‘overruled’, which was quite disappointing. We were also hoping for some riddles and puzzles to ponder over, yet a lot of the questions were along the lines of ‘what would you prefer, cold or hot’.
All the same, now that the BBC has this technology to hand, we might get some truly gripping interactive radio dramas in the near future.