Audio-gamification increases motivation and performance without screens

New study shows potential of audio-gamification in the context of virtual assistants

Kiel / Hamburg, 19 September 2023: Scientists at the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics published a study on audio-gamification of intelligent virtual assistants. The lab experiment with 81 participants showed that purely acoustic gamification has positive effects on motivation and performance in the usage of virtual assistants. The findings of the study can be applied in the context of AI- supported learning.

The growing popularity of virtual assistants such as Siri, Amazon Alexa, Cortana or Google Assistant has also raised interest in researching and developing voice-activated technology. A great challenge in designing these intelligent virtual assistants (IVA) is to make them attractive. This is particularly important in learning environments.

Can gamification help increase the motivation for using virtual assistants? Especially in view of the fact that visual design elements cannot be used in designing game elements, and designers have only acoustic elements such as language, sound and music at their disposal?

Scientists from the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics addressed these questions. Gamification researchers Paula Bräuer and Athanasios Mazarakis from the ZBW research group “Web Science” studied the implementation of cooperative and competitive audio-gamification for intelligent virtual assistants in their paper “Alexa, can we design gamification without a screen?”

The study is an essential part of fundamental research at the ZBW chair of Web Science which addresses usage phenomena and usage behaviour in digital learning and research environments.

The study shows that audio-gamification had significant positive effects on participants’ motivation and performance. Their attitude, as well as the processing time for the given tasks, was positively affected by purely acoustic gamification.

The findings from the lab experiment with 81 participants have some important implications for learning with interactive virtual assistants and could be applied variously in the context of AI-supported learning:

  1. Motivation and performance enhancement: The results show that audio-gamification has motivating effects on users and increases their performance. This can be transferred to other learning situations to boost interest and motivation of the learners and to improve their performance. Audio-gamification can serve to motivate learners to apply more effort and also to provide support for learning management.
  2. Feedback and reward: The importance of feedback in learning processes is well- known. By integrating audio-gamification, interactive virtual assistants can provide feedback and rewards in familiar ways. This can have positive effects on the learning experience and make learning more efficient.
  3. Universal access: Research into the effects of audio-gamification also opens up possibilities for developing universally accessible learning applications. Barriers raised by visual elements can be avoided by using audio elements. This makes learning applications more attractive and more accessible for visually impaired people.
  4. Narrative element: Successfully embedding learning tasks into a story can improve the acceptance of virtual assistants in learning contexts. Learners often prefer natural conversation and narrative elements to purely menu-based systems. Integrating narrative elements can enrich the learning experience and render the interaction with the virtual assistant more attractive.

The results of this study show that audio-gamification can support learning in various contexts by increasing motivation and performance, offering feedback, and enriching the learning experience. It opens up new possibilities for designing interactive learning applications and IVAs.

The paper: Paula Bräuer, Athanasios Mazarakis (2022): „Alexa, can we design gamification without a screen?“ - Implementing cooperative and competitive audio-gamification for intelligent virtual assistants, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 135, 2022,