Introducing “Biden’s Briefing”

This past summer we had the distinct honor and privilege to partner with Vice President Joe Biden on a new audio experience. We call this “narrative news” and it’s a new format, designed for interactive voice devices by Amazon, Google, and Apple. This means it’s conversational so you can ask your smart speaker questions like “what’s Joe Biden reading about technology?” All of the news is read back to you and handpicked by Joe Biden. You can also listen to his curated program on Apple iTunesSpotify, and TuneIn. See all ways to access the curated news here.

Here’s the official release:


Los Angeles/Vancouver/New York (September 25, 2017) — Inverting the paradigm of White House officials receiving briefings on critical world issues, “Biden’s Briefing” launched today, featuring curated news and articles selected each day by former Vice President Joe Biden.

In 3 to 15 minute daily programs on articles he finds interesting, informative and consequential, Vice President Biden shares what he’s reading on issues that are sparking conversation across the country: everything from healthcare to economic opportunity to climate change. Content is sourced through partnerships with over a dozen news publishers including Axios, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, MSNBC, New York Review of Books, Politico, Slate, Vice and Wired. Additional content publishers will be added soon.

Biden’s Briefing” is currently available on iTunesSpotify and TuneIn, as well as on the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice services.

“I’m pleased to share my latest project, ‘Biden’s Briefing,’” says Vice President Joe Biden. “Each edition of the briefing will feature articles, essays and posts that made an impression on me and that I feel are important to share. It isn’t just a collection of stories I’ve enjoyed, it’s part of a much bigger conversation. The world is changing quickly, and now more than ever we need to broaden our perspective and be better informed. These briefings include a range of thoughts and opinions, some of which I agree with and some I don’t, but all of which I think are important to spend some time thinking about.”

“Biden’s Briefing” is a collaboration between interactive audio company Ground Control, a new venture launched in August with the mission to develop unique voice-activated entertainment and news experiences, leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and New York-based voice platform SpokenLayer.

About Ground Control

Created by highly regarded tech entrepreneur Mike Macadaan in partnership with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Ground Control is currently developing compelling original content with well-known personalities across entertainment, sports, politics and beyond. With an initial focus on current affairs and interactive games, Ground Control aims to grow into health & wellness, hospitality and other promising categories. Catalyzed by a relationship with Amazon, Ground Control is building a tech platform focused on three areas — discoverability, engagement and retention — utilizing the marriage of technology and pop culture to foster deep connections with demographic-targeted consumers.

About SpokenLayer

Headquartered in NYC, SpokenLayer is the operating system for voice. Working with leading publishers, brands, and curators, SpokenLayer creates, distributes, and monetizes spoken audio content across all major audio platforms. Partners include premium publishers with massive reach like Time, Wired, Medium, Slate, Reuters, and many more. SpokenLayer’s voice experiences are available wherever digital audio can be found, including Amazon Alexa, Google Home, iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and many more.

The Ground Control Origin Story: Imagining What’s Next In Audio AI

by Megan Freshley

Every kid has their own way of connecting with the mystery of the universe. For Ground Control CEO Mike Macadaan, this formative state of wonder came special delivery from a color-block, 8-track playing robot by the name of 2XL — touted as “the robot with personality.” A few decades later, Mike is about to hit play on interactive audio startup Ground Control.

Not quite Spike Jonze’s Her

Mike’s throwback robot was designed as an educational toy delivering a computer-like experience. Its 8-track brain played tapes recorded in over-the-top voices by its parent company Mego about math, science, history, and even current events. Right around the time the Voyager was snapping its first close-ups of Saturn, the boxy beige-and-white 2XL captured Macadaan imagination.

“I was young and very curious about science, history, outer space, and music. With a parent that didn’t like to live in the same place for more than a year coupled with being an only child, this made it challenging to develop friendships. In comes my new bf,” Macadaan says.

“There were lights in the eye sockets and a simple control panel. The controls were nicely color coded and labeled to let know each of the buttons’ functions. The knob to turn it on was this slow-moving dial that had this fantastic click to signal on or off. The feedback was auditory and physical — wonderful. In my opinion as a 10-year-old, the Mego company crushed it with the aesthetics.”

But it wasn’t just the educational side of this ancestral audio-based home tech that sparked something. “When the learning became boring, I would pop in a KISS tape and jam out to rock and roll. This was my first experience interfacing with something that appeared to be a computer,” Macadaan says. “This was my first recollection of a complete static user experience.”

“It sounded smart, like annoyingly smart — a real know it all. A young, nebbish New York professor type. Fast talking, non-gendered, dramatic intonations, and dense knowledge. A little intimidating, but somehow you knew it was your friend.”

F.FWD >>

Between Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, you’ve probably already used a speech-based AI today. As machine learning propels voice-activated artificial intelligence closer and closer toward the Turing-passing conversationalists the tech world dreams of, consumers are less shackled to screens.

Voice-based AI lets users communicate like they would with any other intelligent entity by removing the need to physically handle a device at all. That’s right — it looks like we’ll all be spared the carpal tunnel and dry eyes we’ve become accustomed to in the screen-based present once we make the full leap toward a more intuitive mode of interaction with our tech.

In envisioning Ground Control, Macadaan says there are three primary layers to their AI stack:

1. The ease of everyday conversation

Interactive audio isn’t just about getting GPS directions or ordering from the Thai place down the street. Its implications in education (like Mego foreshadowed back in 1978), gaming, hospitality, and auto are pretty limitless. And that’s where Creative Artists Agency comes in. With their incredible talent roster, CAA will bring your favorite celebrities and athletes’ voices to Ground Control. Instead of the pat, monotone robot speech you’re used to hearing in interactive audio, what if you could hear the signature voices of your favorite actors?

2. Flexible, multi-platform technology

Thanks to a greater proliferation of open-source AI speech platforms, Ground Control will be able to publish onto a variety of systems and devices. Right now, invocation is different between Alexa, Google, Apple, and other AI platforms, meaning users have to learn a number of different ways to engage with their AI companions. Ground Control’s tech will help make that easier.

3. Discovery

“There’s no app store for voice skills and actions,” Macadaan says. “So we’re going to be able to create a path to discovery.” They’re both developing new experiences and ways to find those experiences.

What technology & pop culture sound like together

If you’re ready to discover machine learning-powered audio that delivers personalized, fun encounters, you’re not alone. “Alexa or Siri get old. It’s uncomfortable. A celebrity you’re familiar with is a completely new experience,” Macadaan says.

“We’ve been testing in this huge studio space in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s incredible how people interact with this when they hear familiar voices. Things are becoming more low-touch. It started off with a clunky mouse, and then touch and gesture. Now voices are a way to compute and control these experiences. For me as a designer, this is the greatest moment ever.”