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

Fully autonomous automobiles may( or were not able to) be time around the corner, but in the meantime, a startup that’s building in-car apps to help human drivers progress the time when behind the rotation has raised a round of funding.

Drivetime — which prepares voice-based trivia quizzes, games and interactive fibs that people can play while driving — has raised $11 million in funding is presided over by Makers Fund( a prolific investor in gaming startups ), with participation from Amazon( via the Alexa Fund) and Google( via its Assistant investment program ).

The startup today has eight “channels” on its platform consisting of games and storeys that you can access either within a limited free-to-play tier or via a paid due( $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year ). The schedule is to use the funding to continue expanding that catalog, as well as investing in deeper integrations with its new big-name strategic investors, who themselves have longstanding and depth interests in accompanying more expression service and content to the in-car experience.

Co-founder and CEO Niko Vuori told TechCrunch that his ultimate end is for Drivetime to become” the Sirius XM of interactive content” for cars, with hundreds of different channels of content.

In keeping with those schedules, along with the funding, Drivetime is today announcing a key content deal.

It has teamed up with the long-running, favourite game show Jeopardy to build a trivia channel for the platform, which causes moves test their own skills and likewise play against other drivers and people they are aware. The Jeopardy channel will source material from the Tv show’s trove of IP and come with another acquainted item: it will be chronicled by Alex Trebek, with a new quiz getting published every weekday for payment users.

That social factor of the Jeopardy game is not a coincidence. The San Francisco-based startup is founded by Zynga alums, with Vuori and his co-founders Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson also working together at another startup announced Rocket Games since leaving the social sports beings and exiting that to gaming giant Penn National for up to $ 170 million. That track record exits some behavior to explaining the strong roll of investors in the brand-new startup.

“Social and interactive formats are the next territory in audio recreation, ” said Makers Fund founding spouse Jay Chi, in a statement posted. “Niko, Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson, with a decade-long history of working together and a establish track record in build brand-new programmes, is the best team to bring this idea to life.”

“Gaming and presentation are among customers’ favorite use cases for Alexa, and we guess those categories will merely flourish in popularity as Alexa is integrated into more vehicles, ” said Paul Bernard, conductor of the Alexa Fund at Amazon, in a separate statement. “Drivetime stands out for its focus on voice-first competitions in the car, and we’re evoked to work with them to broaden the Alexa Auto experience and help customers meet the most of their time behind the wheel.”

In addition to the three investors in this latest round, prior to this Drivetime had raised about$ 4 million from sponsors that include Felicis Ventures, Fuel Capital, Webb Investment Network( Maynard Webb’s fund) and Access Ventures.

Vuori declined to say how many positions or active useds the app be here today — although from the lookings of it on AppAnnie, it’s seeing respectable if not blockbuster success on iOS and Android so far.

Instead, the company prefers to focus on another stat, its addressable marketplace, which it says is 110 million drivers in North America alone.

Meanwhile, contributing a Jeopardy channel is building on what has worked best even further. The most popular category at the moment is trivia, with Tunetime( a” epithet that theme” tournament) coming in second and storytelling a third.

Drivetime’s premise is an interesting one. Drivers are a captive audience, but one that has up to now had a relatively limited amount of presentation created for it, focusing mainly on music and spoken word.

However, the increase of voice-based interfaces and interactivity using natural language — stimulation by the rise of personal assistant apps and in-home hubs like Amazon’s Echo — have opened a brand-new possibility, developing interactive, voice-based content for moves to cooperate with more proactively.

You might think that this sounds like a recipe for a car accident. Won’t a motorist get too amused trying to remember the fourth president of the United District, or who was known as the parent of the Constitution?( Hint: It’s the same person .)

Vuori claims it’s actually the reverse: Having an interactive activity who are in need of the move to speak out loud can focus him or her and keep the driver more alert.

” We are double-dipping in safety ,” he said.” On the one side, we embody the security the various aspects of Alertness Maintaining Tasks( AMTs ). But we likewise act as a preventative, meaning that while actors engage with Drivetime, they are not engaging with anything else .”

While the content today may serve as a way of retaining motorists from doing things they shouldn’t be doing while in a gondola, there is another self-evident opening that might come as operators become less needed and is necessary other things to occupy themselves.

Longer term, the Jeopardy deal could be used in other channels based on favourite game show. Sony Pictures Television Games, which owns the human rights of it, likewise owns Wheel of Fortune and Who Miss to Be a Millionaire.

“We are thrilled to work with Sony Pictures Television Games to fetch Jeopardy, the greatest game show on countries around the world, to an underserved gathering that desperately needs interactive leisure “the worlds largest”- the 110 million passengers in North America driving to and from work by themselves every day, ” said Vuori said in a statement.

Interestingly, despite the growth of ” skills” for Alexa or apps for Google Home and other residence centres, and the overall popularity of these as a method of interacting with apps and sourcing information, Vuori says that he hasn’t seen any contender rise yet from other app developers to build voice-based entertainment for operators in the way that Drivetime has.

That commits the company ample opportunity to continue picking up brand-new consumers — and more is working with publishers and material fellowships looking forward to more mileage( sorry) for their bequest IP and new business.

“Drivetime is one of the early founders in creating safe, stimulating entertainment for moves in the car ,” Ilya Gelfenbeyn, founding contribute of the Google Assistant Investments Program , noted in a statement.” More and more beings are applying their spokesperson to stay productive on the road, querying the Google Assistant on Android and iOS phones to help send text themes, impel calls and access entertainment sides free. We share Drivetime’s vision, and look forward to working with their team to start the daily commute more enjoyable.”

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