In honor of “Pokémon Day” on February 27, which honors the franchise’s 22nd anniversary, the Pokémon Company has released Pikachu Talk—a new skill for Amazon Alexa and Google Home that allows users to have a “conversation” with the famous Pokémon character.
The skill follows a trend of using celebrity and fictional character voices for zero UI marketing, which creates opportunities for brands to get creative with consumer interaction. Over the past year, marketers have experimented with uses for voice interaction that range from video game integration to cocktail recipes.
Fulfilling the childhood—and in some cases, adulthood—fantasies of interacting with a character such as Pikachu can create a sense of closeness with the brand. Parents can use the Pikachu Talk skill to introduce a “childhood friend” to their own children using their voice. Interacting with a celebrity-voice AI can also make consumers feel connected to someone they admire and by extension, the brand they represent.
This Alexa Pikachu Talk skill is lit ….. with Thunderbolts pic.twitter.com/IZffYzzcAM
— Vin (@lucentai) February 26, 2018
Eric Bisceglia, vice president of Go-To-Market at Voysis—a voice AI platform that enables natural language instruction and search—says that this emerging technology creates opportunities for more than just Google and Amazon.
“Just like with mobile devices in the early 2000s, voice AI is revolutionizing how we interact with technology as well as how we discover and consume content,” Bisceglia told AListDaily. “As usage of voice continues to skyrocket, it’s critical that marketers develop a voice strategy now.”
Brands are noticing and taking advantage. In December, Activision and developer Bungie launched an official Alexa skill that integrates directly into Destiny 2. The Ghost skill—so named for a player’s companion AI in the game—uses voice recognition to equip loadouts, provide details about a player’s progress or connect with other players through Alexa.
For the September debut of Star Trek: Discovery, CBS created a feature for Amazon Echo. Users can change the wake word to “computer,” as if they are speaking to onboard computers in the Star Trek universe. Consumers can also try out different sayings to prompt Star Trek-themed responses from the AI assistant, such as “Alexa, red alert” and “Alexa, beam me up.”
Last April, Hearst—publisher of O, The Oprah Magazine—teamed up with Amazon to create an experimental project called “O to Go.” The skill for Amazon Echo features Oprah Winfrey reading 90 snippets from her book, What I Know for Sure when prompted by the user.
First released in Japan, Pikachu Talk is now available for Amazon Alexa devices in most countries and Google Home devices in the US. Fans can ask Alexa or Google Home to speak with Pikachu and he will respond. Users can then ask questions or have him tell a story, all the form of “pika” or “pikachu.”
Further celebrating its holiday beyond the Amazon skill activation, The Pokémon Company has also introduced Snapchat filters and special events inside its hit mobile AR game, Pokémon GO.