Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop are among the first companies to partner with Amazon on kid-focused Alexa skills, which are now available for free via the Alexa app.
First up is Nickelodeon’s The SpongeBob Challenge (pictured), a kid-friendly memory game for Amazon Echo and other voice assistant Alexa devices. After enabling the skill by saying, “Alexa, start The SpongeBob Challenge,” the game recreates the soundscape and iconic underwater world of Bikini Bottom. In the game, kids can become a new Krusty Krab restaurant employee tasked with taking increasingly complicated food orders and relaying them to a staff comprised of SpongeBob, Squidward and Mr. Krabs. Featuring more than 70 characters and 80 challenges across 25 levels, the game promotes memory recall, verbal skills and listening comprehension.
For Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Street collab, the voice command “Alexa, open Sesame Street” takes kids into a hide-and-seek experience with Elmo. The game encourages users to listen carefully for audio clues to determine where Elmo is hiding. Kids can also practice the alphabet when Elmo tells them about the letter of the day.
Amazon Storytime, meanwhile, is triggered by saying, “Alexa, read me bedtime a story.” The skill features a collection of narrated short stories for kids ages five to 12 from the Amazon Rapids library, including Amazon original series Niko and the Sword of Light (pictured). Stories are read by SNL‘s Aidy Bryant and the voice of SpongeBob himself, Tom Kenny. More audible short stories will be added to the collection in the coming months.
For safety purposes, the first time a kid skill is enabled, Alexa asks for parental permission via the Alexa app. Consent can be provided either through an SMS-generated one-time password or by credit card verification, and extends to all of Alexa’s kid skills, so the process only needs to be perfomed once.
Other brand-new kid skills available through Alexa include Animal Sounds Quiz, Old McDonald, Silly Things and Zoo Walk with more expected to launch. And to help expand its voice-enabled content, Amazon is also offering an Alexa Skills Kit to developers looking to create child-friendly skills.
Alexa currently offers thousands of third-party skills through its app. Among the most popular ones with kids and families, but not designed for kids specifically, are The Magic Door, an Alexa-powered interactive choose-your-own-adventure game with original stories, and AVR Apps’ Pokey Finder, which features information on all 721 Pokémon characters.
Other top-rated kid- and family-friendly skills include Animal Game from Azalea Labs, which tests Alexa’s animal knowledge by having her guess a furry friend of your choice, and Would You Rather For Family, a game from Voice Street where kids can choose between two lighthearted and silly situations.
Despite the number of existing skills used by kids and families, and Alexa’s brand new child-focused ones, Amazon has yet to launch an official kid skill category within the Alexa App Store. For now, parents can discover kid-friendly skills though a variety of categories including Games, Trivia & Accessories, Education & Reference, Movies & TV, Music & Audio, Social and Novelty & Humor.
Nickelodeon and Sesame’s entry into the voice-assistant and IoT realm follows a growing list of kids and family companies partnering with Amazon Alexa, including Disney (with its screen-monitoring device Circle With Disney) and BBC Children’s, which is currently working on a prototype project for Alexa featuring an interactive audio episode of CBeebies preschool series Go Jetters.
Other new entrants include UK startup Sensible Object (Beasts of Balance) and Swedish kids wearables developer Tinitell, which were both selected into Amazon’s inaugural Alexa Accelerator program in July. Mattel, meanwhile, recently entered the voice-assistant market for kids with its original IoT product, Aristotle. New sketch-comedy series Skoogle from startup pocket.watch features a digital assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, which is voiced by SNL‘s Kenan Thompson.