"Awexa, play songs of Moana". If you have an Amazon Echo in your home and you also have children, you probably have heard a variation of that phrase previously uttered. Today, Amazon makes it easy for kids and parents to integrate Alexa into their routines with the new Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime services for Alexa.
Echo Dot Kids Edition follows the formula of Amazon's popular Kindle Fire Kids Edition tablets. : is a standard Echo Dot included with a protective rubber case (available in red, green or blue), a one-year subscription to the FreeTime Unlimited service and a two-year Amazon promise to replace the device if it is damaged; they asked questions. It sells for $ 79.99 – a $ 30 premium over a standard Echo Dot – and is available for pre-order starting today, with shipments starting May 9.
In terms of technology and features, Kids Edition Dot is exactly the same as standard Echo Dot that has been around for almost two years. It has seven far-field microphones to select voice commands, a built-in speaker to play voice responses or Alexa music, and the ability to connect to a larger speaker via Bluetooth or an audio cable.
What makes children The only edition is the new FreeTime service that comes pre-activated with it. The service, which can also be enabled on existing Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus devices, adds parental controls, child-friendly content and an experience optimized for children at Alexa. (As with many Alexa services, it is not clear if FreeTime will be available on third-party Alexa devices, such as Sonos One. The company said it will not be available on Alexa devices with screens, such as the Echo Spot and Echo Show)
FreeTime in Alexa is divided into two levels: the free basic service, which includes parental controls, and the FreeTime Unlimited service, which adds access to "more than 300" suitable for children Audible audiobooks; friendly radio stations for children of the iHeartRadio family; premium skills of Alexa from Disney, Nickelodeon and National Geographic; Custom character alarms from Disney, Nickelodeon and others. One year of FreeTime Unlimited is included with Echo Dot Kids Edition and Fire Tablet Kids Edition. It can also be purchased separately from $ 2.99 per month per child for Prime customers.
The basic FreeTime on Alexa service blocks certain Alexa features, such as purchases, news, and third-party skills that require linking external accounts (such as Uber or Domino's). It also allows parents to set time limits on when and how much Alexa can use in a day, as well as stop access to Alexa for periods of time. The Main Board shows which songs, skills and Audible books are accessed in Alexa, and allows parents to delete any recording of voice clips. Amazon Music subscribers may also block the playback of explicit songs through Alexa.
Joel Sherman, responsible for FreeTime at Amazon, says the company has developed a series of optimizations for Alexa to improve the FreeTime experience for children. Optimized the assistant's voice detection for children's voices, which are often more acute than those of adults, and common mispronunciations (such as "Awexa"). When FreeTime is enabled, Alexa provides more context for the questions asked, rather than just a direct answer. It also provides an intercom function, which allows Echo devices to call from room to room within a house, but not outside.
Sherman also says that parents have asked the company to add features that help children learn manners, which has been a point of discussion around the interaction with virtual assistants. The FreeTime "Magic Word" feature, which provides positive reinforcement when children use the word "please" when they ask Alexa to do something, was created in response to this request. Magic Word can be combined with the recently launched tracking function, which provides the opportunity to thank Alexa once she has completed a task or provided an answer. The positive reinforcement for courtesy is only available on Echo devices that have FreeTime enabled, but Sherman says that Amazon plans to evaluate if it's something that people want in Alexa's main experience.
Amazon says the FreeTime experience in Alexa is tailored for children ages five to 12, and most of the skills and features are appropriate for ages five to nine. Toni Reid, Amazon's vice president in charge of the Alexa and Echo devices, says the company takes privacy and security very seriously with the FreeTime service and said it does not share customer information with any of FreeTime's skill developers.
Enabling FreeTime on an Echo device will instantly block various Alexa functions, such as purchasing, adding items to a shopping list, third-party music services such as Spotify or Pandora, and smart home controls, so it's not ideal for a shared device that is used by both adults and children. The function can not yet distinguish between individual voices, so it is not possible to limit those functions only when you hear a child's voice asking them. But if your child already has an Echo in his room, the new FreeTime service could be the easiest for him to use and give him peace of mind.
Photograph by Dan Seifert / The Verge