Soon toddlers can ask Alexa for help cooking in their own toy kitchen, just like mom or dad. The Alexa 2-in-1 kitchen and the Alexa market of the toy manufacturer KidKraft weave the Amazon voice assistant into an interactive kitchen and a grocery store.
The $ 300 deluxe wooden play set will be unveiled at the New York Toy Fair this weekend and is expected to be available later this year at Amazon.com. It contains 100 game pieces that trigger different reactions from Alexa. Not included: Alexa herself, which comes from her parents' Echo Smart speaker and sits in the middle of the game set. (To see it in action, watch the promotional video embedded below.)
Amazon's mission was to prove that its products are family-friendly, and that included putting Alexa in the toy box. The company was in private beta with various developers to develop games and smart toys that work with Alexa. We've seenBut KidKrafts creation is on a whole new level: it uses a mix of RFID sensors and Bluetooth to tell Alexa what foods kids buy and cook.
How it works
KidKraft is an established preschool toy company that sells chic wooden kitchens that touch modern trends. So it's no big deal that one of his play sets contains the latest technology when today's three-year-olds are already talking to their parents' Alexa device. The twist is that KidKraft created a program that works in the Amazon Alexa world and helps kids learn about cooking meals and shopping while cooking.
The fun begins when a parent opens their Amazon app and Alexa adds a new functionality – in this case, a KidKraft program, also known as Alexa capability. Then the parent or child can ask Alexa to start the KidKraft program through an intelligent speaker like the Echo. You can then use Alexa with the kitchen and the market set.
It is not necessary for children to use the "Alexa" hot word for the assistant to respond. Alexa only responds to everyday words and phrases that children can say while playing. According to KidKraft, the program offers a total of more than 700 different voice commands and responses.
So when Alexa picks up a child who says "spaghetti," "market," or "let's play," Alexa prompts for a recipe, a shopping list of ingredients, or starts a game.
But Alexa not only responds to children's voices, it can also recognize which objects children are playing with and react accordingly. The accessories in the play set, which include counterfeit food and cookware, are equipped with RFID chips, and sensors can detect which items are at the cash register or on the stove. The game set then passes this information on to the smart speaker via Bluetooth.
That is, if a child puts the pot on the stove, Alexa can say, "Now that the water is boiling, can you open the fridge and get some vegetables?"
The play set is also programmed with several games that Alexa can play. For example, the "Secret Ingredient Game" encourages children to use clues to guess what food Alexa is thinking of. Then the children have to scan the right item at the checkout.
If a parent doesn't want to echo to play, the kitchen and market still produce some sound effects, such as: B. Beeps at the cash register and boiling water on the stove. Children just won't get the Alexa interactions.
It's unusual to put Alexa at the center of a toy, but industry analyst Juli Lennet, vice president at The NPD Group, says it's a more interesting mix of technology than before.
"It's different and I always like things that have a classic game pattern but a twist, and that's definitely that."
The toy industry insiders surveyed by CNET said the number of technology-related toys is declining as parents try to limit screen time for children interested in video games, phones, and tablets. However, the KidKraft recipe can be a way to reverse this trend. It merges today's technology with physical play, but only with one voice instead of a screen.
And yet the audience for this play kitchen is limited. An Adobe study estimates that 36% of consumers have a smart speaker. Nevertheless, Amazon dominates the category and is growing. Amazon recently said Alexa has smart home engagement, with Alexa on 100 million devices.
Stir the pot of privacy concerns
When it comes to children using voice assistants, Amazon has received numerous criticisms, questions, and concerns about data collection and how children should interact with the technology. Last year, child advocates asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine the Echo Dot Kids Edition – a candy-colored version of the smart speaker with parental controls – to collect sensitive information about children who are parents, Amazon also stands out who claim that Amazon's intelligent speakers picked up children without their consent.
To address concerns, Amazon requires children's Alexa programs – including the one created by KidKraft – to have stricter content guidelines. Programs for children must not contain advertising, sell anything, collect personal information or contain content that is not suitable for all ages.
Alexa Gadgets at Amazon director Kyle Laughlin said in an email to CNET that the company takes the concerns seriously and that parents must be the ones who even agree to download such a program.
"We believe the voice will be a big part of the future," said Laughlin. "Technology is generally not a substitute for parenting, but we believe child-friendly products and skills can provide a fun, interactive, and educational experience."
If you have any questions about how the kitchen works, check out the comments. I will visit the Alexa 2-in-1 kitchen and the market itself at the toy fair when it opens on Saturday and update this story with my first impressions.