This Alexa-Powered Play Kitchen Teaches Kids How to Shop and Cook
Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will power a new play-kitchen for children built by toymaker KidKraft. The $300 Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market uses the voice assistant as a tool for imitating the way adults use Alexa for cooking and shopping.
Alexa Kitchen for Kids
KidKraft debuted a prototype of the toy kitchen and grocery store at the New York Toy Fair this past weekend and plans to start selling it next year, according to a CNET report. The playset is built with sensors and Bluetooth transmitters, but it acts as an Alexa accessory, requiring connection to an Amazon Echo of some kind. Once it is connected, parents can start the KidKraft Alexa skill and the children can start playing.
Based on the prototype, a lot of how the kitchen will operate depends on toys that either come with the set or will be bought separately. Fake food, cooking utensils, and a credit card have RFID sensors. If a fake food item is scanned on the market check-out, Alexa will confirm what the child scanned and make suggestions, while fake food put into a pot on the stove will initiate a splashing sound, followed by a reminder a few minutes later to take them out of the pot. The sounds are built into the playset and don’t require Alexa, should a parent be unavailable to turn on the skill. With Alexa enabled, there are more than 700 commands and responses that kids may experience, according to KidKraft, including recipes, games, and apparently a lot of bad puns.
Kidding With Alexa
The KidKraft Kitchen looks like an advanced application of the Custom Interfaces feature Amazon added to the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit in August. The feature aims to adapt Alexa for interacting with devices different from the baseline speakers and screens. Amazon ran a private beta for game and toy developers working on ways of adding Alexa to devices for young children when the feature came out, such as interactive teddy bears. Having the voice assistant be a grocery checkout scanner and recipe planner for kids fits right in with that mandate, as does the rule laid out at the time that any device for kids using Alexa needs parental permission to unlock.
Amazon has been exploring ways to make Alexa a part of children’s activities in other ways as well. The second version of the Echo Dot Kids Edition came out last summer, including premium content for purchase. Kid and family-friendly features are integrated in some way to most Alexa-powered devices, including the Alexa FreeTime service, which offers kid-focused content and voice skills to Echo and Echo Show users. There’s also the Echo Glow smart lamp lets kids adjust their own night lights and play with lighting in their room.
Privacy and Safety
The parental lock on Alexa for the play kitchen one of several parental controls Alexa offers, including time limits and content access. Amazon and other voice assistant developers are trying to address privacy and security concerns, especially when it comes to kids, because of the pushback they are dealing with. Amazon is already facing lawsuits over whether Alexa violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and that was even before the furor over whether contractors hired by Amazon are hearing conversations, including with children, that Alexa accidentally recorded.
Toys and games are a good way for Amazon to boost brand-loyalty to Alexa early and a toy set that talks back is certainly going to appeal to some kids. But, that doesn’t mean that all of them will trust the invisible woman making jokes about how letting hot dogs go cold turns them into chili dogs. Recent studies have shown that kids may not trust an intangible voice as much as their parents or peers. And biting into a plastic avocado thinking it is real won’t help build that trust.