March 28, 2024
Explore with Alexa: Amazon's Kid-Friendly Answer to Consumer AI

Explore with Alexa: Amazon’s Kid-Friendly Answer to Consumer AI

Amazon is aiming to gain a competitive advantage in the consumer AI market by introducing novel generative AI functionalities to Alexa, its digital assistant that functions across several platforms and devices, coinciding with the peak of the holiday shopping season. On Wednesday, the e-commerce and digital behemoth unveiled Explore with Alexa, a kid-focused offering.

The goal of Explore with Alexa is to respond to children’s inquiries in a more tailored and age-appropriate manner. According to the firm, it will be available on any Amazon Echo device with a kid profile and come with a monthly membership to Amazon Kids+.

According to Amazon, the new Explore with Alexa feature will answer children’s queries about nature and animals with entertaining facts and trivia. The firm claims that these answers are modified from “trusted sources” including A-Z Animals and the World Wildlife Fund.

“Our LLM stack makes it possible to adapt this vetted content into natural, kid-friendly responses with age-appropriate vocabulary,” stated Arjun Venkataswamy, Senior Product Manager of Alexa Kids. “We first started with trivia questions because, aside from them being fun, they take advantage of a well-researched educational technique called ‘activating prior knowledge.’”

By uttering Alexa’s wake-up command and posing a question, children will be able to learn on-demand with the upgraded Alexa, according to Amazon. Additionally, the service will provide thought-provoking queries meant to maintain children’s interest in delving deeper into a subject.

“Explore with Alexa includes the same accessibility focus and features as Alexa overall,” Venkataswamy explained. “As part of the hybrid human and AI evaluation process, we review all Explore with Alexa content to ensure that it’s inclusive for kids with a wide range of backgrounds.”

Amazon, like Google and Microsoft, has made significant investments in generative AI technology. One such investment is $4 billion in Anthropic, the company that created Claude AI and is an OpenAI opponent. The e-commerce behemoth debuted a slew of new AI-powered items in September, including extensions to its smart home product line.

It has proven controversial to adapt generative AI for children, as governments and watchdog organizations are leery of any technology that is available to children. 34 states sued Meta, the parent corporation of Facebook and Instagram, on Tuesday, claiming that Meta exploits its algorithms to trick kids into using the platforms more and to worsen their mental health problems.

“Building on our long-term commitment to preserve the trust of our customers and their families, Explore with Alexa puts trust and safety at the forefront,” Venkataswamy stated. “We are utilizing both content guardrails: starting with safe, objective topics like animals, adapting content from trusted sources, and utilizing a mix of human and AI review.”

The issues of data collection, storage, and access for AI models continue to be major concerns, even as developers strive to safeguard children on the internet. For fear of data leaks and intellectual property loss, tech giants like Apple and Samsung, the US House of Representatives, and the US Space Force have prohibited or limited their workers and service members from using ChatGPT.

Fears from 2019 when it was revealed that Amazon hired human contractors to listen to Alexa recordings were revived this month when reports claimed that the company trains its AI models on consumer interactions. Customers have the option to choose not to share their data with the corporation, an Amazon representative said.

“Amazon has always believed that training Alexa with real-world requests is essential to delivering an experience to customers that’s accurate and personalized and constantly getting better. But in tandem, we give customers control over whether their Alexa voice recordings are used to improve the service, and we always honour our customer preferences when we train our models.” The spokesperson concluded.


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