Amazon has made no secret of creating clients out of the entire household, together with the children. There are already varied methods to convey Alexa into your youngster’s life, from units like good shows and Fireplace tablets to expertise that allow every part from video games to homework assist. And now, Amazon has introduced Reading Sidekick, a brand new ability that permits Alexa to learn a guide alongside together with your child and coach them while you’re not accessible.
Reading Sidekick was designed in the interest of making “reading more fun.” It works best for kids ages 6-9 who still need help parsing sentences and learning pronunciation. Reading Sidekick works with both physical and digital books, provided they’re available in Amazon’s library. You’ll need an Amazon Kids Plus account to activate it, which costs $5 per month without Amazon Prime and $3 with an active subscription. There are more than 700 books available at launch, including recently published titles like Hair Like Mine and long-standing favorites like Chica Chica Boom Boom.
After your kid commands, “Alexa, let’s read,” the assistant will ask the child to say the book title, and then it will queue it up to start. You can choose how much you want Alexa to read along or if it should take turns.
Once your child starts to read, Alexa will listen and respond accordingly. If your child is struggling, Alexa will provide the next word to help them move forward. And when they’re succeeding, Alexa will offer words of encouragement, like, “Amazing job!” and, “Way to stick with it,” which is not something a human would say in this day and age, but maybe this a way to help differentiate Alexa from real people. Alexa will even offer up a “woohoo!” if your kid is nailing the pronunciation of words and managing a healthy pace.
Honestly, the Reading Sidekick sounds like fun—like something I would have taken advantage of when I was a kid reading all by my lonesome. I might even try this out with my daughter once she’s of reading age. It’s an easy way to encourage reading practice when you’re not available, and the fact that it’s an AI assistant is a neat gimmick for keeping a kid entertained.
The Reading Sidekick feature is being released alongside Alexa Voice Profiles for Kids, which will allow parents to opt in for a separate voice profile for up to four children. For a child that relies on constant interaction with the digital assistant, it might be something you consider for the ease of access and built-in parental controls that come with it.
But before you commit, consider how Amazon trained its assistant to make these kid-specific features a reality. As TechCrunch reminded us, Amazon makes use of children’ voice recordings for Alexa’s speech recognition and pure language understanding. In some instances, Amazon manually critiques the voice samples. And that’s how Alexa can perceive accents, lisps, and all of the totally different ways in which a baby may pronounce a phrase of their early growth.
When you’re a guardian that’s waffling on the utility of those assistant options, and also you’ve already introduced the units into your own home, you may evaluation easy methods to delete individual voice recordings that includes your youngster. You can even set it up in order that Alexa robotically deletes recordings after a set time period. The choice is out there within the Alexa Privateness dashboard on the cell app, beneath Extra Settings. From there, tick the choice to allow deletion by voice. Then you may choose when and the way usually Amazon ought to filter your voice recordings. I’ve it set in order that it by no means saves my queries.
I reached out to Amazon to make clear whether or not this capacity will prolong to Alexa Voice Profiles for Youngsters. Amazon responded that folks management the voice recordings by utilizing the above-mentioned Alexa Privateness dashboard to guarantee constant deletion.
For anybody considering of Studying Sidekick as a useful software for maintaining children engaged by means of the summer season, the characteristic is now accessible in case you’re an Amazon Youngsters Plus subscriber. Alexa Voice Profiles for Youngsters will roll out to everybody by July 2.
Up to date 6/30/2021, 12:15 p.m. ET: This story now contains clarification from Amazon.