The battle between digital voice assistants has just become more personal—at least when it comes to kids. Amazon has unveiled an entirely new child-centric US$80 Echo Dot Kids Edition that will feature bevy of digital parental controls and content services like Amazon FreeTime on Alexa.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition includes a one-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited plus a kid-friendly case for the device. There will be access to more than 300 audible kids books, and child-friendly ad-free radio stations and playlists from iHeartRadio. In addition to existing Alexa skills for kids featuring SpongeBob and Elmo that launched this past August, there will also be new skills including Disney’s Disney Stories, Nickelodeon’s No Way That’s True and National Geographic’s This or That.
For those with existing Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus devices, a FreeTime on Alexa upgrade will be available on May 9 featuring controlled time limits, Amazon’s Parent Dashboard, activity reviews, educational trivia questions, disabled voice purchasing and household communication tools (think dinnertime announcements à la Alexa). The FreeTime on Alexa upgrade will also feature a new Magic Word tool, which offers positive reinforcement when kids say “please” when asking questions.
Amazon just last week announced that it was opening up Alexa skills to US consumers with Alexa Skill Blueprints. The 20-plus customized skills currently available are only accessible on individual devices and are created on the Blueprints website.
The launch of Echo Dot Kids Edition comes as AI voice assistants continue to take the kids biz by storm. According to market research firm The NPD Group, 15% of US internet-enabled households had an AI-enabled voice device last year, and that number is expected to grow by 50% in 2018. Recently, an Amazon and US Family Online Safety Institute study found that the majority of parents want their kids to interact with and learn from the family’s voice assistant.