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Artificial intelligence

Please, Alexa? Amazon’s new parental controls will encourage politeness

April 25, 2018

The new Echo Dot gives kids their own avenue to Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, and it includes a feature that rewards polite words.

Alexa, do Junior’s bidding, please: Amazon said Wednesday that the Echo Dot Kids Edition, available in May, includes parental controls such as time limits and a “Magic World” feature that praises kids for saying “please” when they talk to the device. Amazon is also rolling out these controls to all users of its Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus gadgets.

What it means: Amazon has long let developers build “skills” for children. Current skills can tell stories or even nag kids to go to bed. It directs developers to comply with the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

These latest moves show the online retailer is trying to forge an even greater connection with kids and make parents feel comfortable about it, too. Amazon’s moves make sense; after all, children control a lot of household spending and media-watching decisions.

Technical details: Kids tend to be harder for voice-recognition technology to understand—their voices are often changing, for one thing, and they may not enunciate as well as adults do.

 

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