Amazon Alexa has introduced a new feature, called the FreeTime mode, in order to appropriately answer questions raised by children.
When kids ask where babies come from, for example, the Alexa under this mode will say “People make people, but how they’re made would be a better question for a grown-up.”
As kids ask what happens when people die, the assistant will say “That’s a hard question to answer. If you’re wondering about this, you should ask someone in your family, a teacher, or a friend who you know and trust.”
Just like how adults adjust their words while talking to children, Alexa wants to do the same as a voice assistant at home. It doesn’t tell kids that Santa Claus isn’t real or explain what marijuana is.
About 20% of U.S. consumers have a smart speaker at home. Many of them have families and children at home. When smart speakers and voice assistants become more common in households, how they talk differently to children is important to parents. This may affect parents’ decision to keep a speaker at home or not. Therefore, it’s also important for Amazon and Google to make their voice assistants children-friendly.
Amazon is working with child psychologists to create new answers for the FreeTime mode, making sure Alexa will get smarter not only in domain knowledge but also in how it delivers the information.
“Alexa isn’t intended to be a replacement parent or caregiver. So we believe it’s important we treat these answers with empathy and point the child to a trusted adult when applicable,” said Amazon in a statement.
Parents can activate the FreeTime mode for their Echo devices, including the Echo, Echo Plus and the Echo Dot, through the Alexa app.