Google Assistant is Tightening Approval for Voice Apps Directed at Kids, Planning to Remove Google Actions without Approved Mobile Apps
The rules for creating Google Assistant Actions for Families (AFF) are getting stricter. The AFF program will be restricted to developers with apps on Google Play marked Teacher Approved. Since the middle of last year, Google Action developers could qualify for this program without a mobile app. This will mean that a number of Google Actions that were developed as voice experiences but didn’t begin as mobile apps will no longer qualify and are likely to be removed from the Action directory altogether.
Google sent an email to developers explaining the updated AFF program is to ensure that child and family-friendly Google Assistant Actions are what they claim to be. The company doesn’t mention any particular inciting incident that led to the update, so it could just be an item on the to-do list that the company has finally gotten around to this month. The new restrictions begin on Feb. 11 this year.
Approved Actions in the AFF program will be identified with a badge in the Assistant directory like the one seen above that lets parents know it’s family-friendly. Any developer with an Action in the AFF program has to reapply and prove they have a Teacher Approved app in the Google Play store and submit their action for review. Any that aren’t approved will be shut down entirely on Feb. 11th.
This is of great concern to several Google Assistant Action developers that contacted Voicebot. These developers did not have an interest in publishing mobile apps for Android. Some don’t have any experience in this segment at all. The announced change means they will have to invest in building out a new capability for mobile apps just to keep their child-oriented voice app live in the Google Actions directory. A more likely scenario is they simply abandon the platform and their work to date.
As more families and kids get smart speakers and displays, it makes sense that Google would become more concerned with making sure the kid-friendly material is what it claims. That’s very true for Google Assistant, which has been upgrading its app discovery and games interface of late. When a kid asks Google Assistant to play a game, Google wants to be sure it’s clear which ones are appropriate for them. On smart displays, Google updated the main portal, with a lobby to show featured and top-ranked games similar to how the Google Play Store looks. That makes the family-friendly badge, or its absence, extra noticeable.
Google Assistant has been notably child and family-focused over the last year. The new Family Bell feature is all about helping homeschool kids while reading tutor app Rivet would become part of Google Assistant in October. The badge may help ease the concerns of parents who worry about privacy and security when it comes to their children. Google and Amazon are both dealing with ongoing lawsuits on the matter, so everything Google can do to make parents feel better about the matter is a good thing for them. Of course, even if parents trust the badge on Google Assistant, that doesn’t mean kids will be thrilled. There’s some evidence that younger children especially don’t trust voice assistants. You can read the full text of the email sent to developers below.