Amazon released a special edition Echo device for children – the Echo Dot Kids Edition. The device looks just like the original Echo Dot with rubber colorful cases, but it contains kids-only and kids-appropriate audio contents.
The Kids Edition comes with pre-active Free Time service, which is unveiled along with the Echo Dot for kids. The service provides voice contents designed for kids and control dashboard for parents.
The Free Time service is cut into two parts – the free version and a premium subscription.
The free version helps hide explicit lyrics while they play music on Amazon Music. The voice assistant Alexa works also slightly differently on the Free Time service than on a normal Echo. When kids ask Alexa questions, the assistant will give more context for questions instead of simply throwing answers.
For parents, they will get access to a Parent Dashboard to monitor and limit what kids can do one the device, such as restricting the hours and specific time Alexa can be used.
The premium version, called the Free Time Unlimited, provides a library of 300 audible children books, kid-friendly and ad-free radio stations and playlists and some new educational skills such as National Geographic and Nickelodeon. It costs US$3 per month for Amazon Prime members.
Both versions block out some normal Alexa features, including shopping, news and third-party skills which require to link external accounts (like Uber and Domino’s). Third-party music services such as Spotify and Pandora are also blocked for now, but the company said will add them to kids version soon when hiding explicit lyrics becomes available.
In terms of children privacy, parents can delete any voice snippet recordings from the Parent Dashboard.
Amazon targets the the Echo Dot Kids Edition and the Free Time service on children with 5 to 12 year-old. The Echo Dot Kids Edition costs US$79.99, US$30 more than the original Echo Dot.
Other existing Echo devices can also be equipped with the Free Time service via a free, over-the-air software update starting May 9th. However, Echo devices with a screen won’t be available.
When a normal Echo device is active with the Free Time service, features like shopping, news and third-party skills will be blocked.
“Tens of millions of households already use Alexa, and today we’re excited to introduce an entirely new way for kids to have fun and learn with Alexa,” said Dave Limp, the senior vice president of Amazon Devices and Services, in a statement.
Kids are already talking with Alexa in their daily lives, if there’s an Echo device at home. With a special version of Alexa for kids, children’s privacy can be protected and kids can also learn some knowledge from the Alexa focusing on educational purpose.