voice apps for kids

From Storytelling to Settling Arguments: Voice Technology for Kids

voice apps for kidsImage credit: Why So Smart

Parenting in the future is looking a lot less stressful.

First we got Alexa storytelling skills to keep the kids quiet for a while, but now Amazon has released a special Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition, just for the little ones.

While it may seem as though Amazon simply added parental controls and slapped a fun color on the regular Dot, there’s actually a lot to consider when designing voice technology for children.

Few people know this better than Adva Levin, a conversation designer and founder of the award-winning Pretzel Labs, which creates family-friendly games with Voice . Levin told VOICE, “Children interact with voice-first devices in magically imaginative ways, often times completely differently than adults.”

If you've met a child before, you know this to be true. They’re young, unfiltered, and with highly active imaginations. So how do you go about creating voice-first apps for these wild, little people?  

Develop a personality

Voice-first apps exist for users to converse with. This means the app must have its own voice, and with a voice comes personality. Voices without a personality are, well, boring. Nobody wants to talk to a monotone bot who sounds about as interesting as drywall. Kids certainly won’t.

So it’s reasonable to say that developing a personality is one of the keys to user engagement. (Especially for kids, since most of them have the attention span of a gnat.) The aim should always be to make a voice app sound like someone who kids would want to interact with in real life. Someone kind, fun, and authentic.

Use storytelling

No one loves a good story more than children. Stories are incredibly effective tools at keeping kids engaged, helping them go to sleep, or teaching them a valuable lesson.

Levin’s design studio, Pretzel Labs, integrates the influential power of storytelling into their own Alexa skill called Kids Court. In this skill, Alexa acts as a judge to settle arguments between kids, who play the roles of prosecutor, defendant, and witness. The skill was so effective that it actually won the grand prize in Amazon’s kid skill competition.

Make the interaction an adventure

This relates to the previous storytelling point. There are plenty of life skills and responsibilities adults are tasked with teaching children, but most of the time kids would rather watch YouTube (or eat something they shouldn't).

But what kids are always up for is an "adventure." Another of Pretzel Lab’s apps is called Out The Door, which is all about making kids go through their daily duties while having fun. While brushing their teeth, washing their hands, or eating their breakfast on time, they have points to earn and virtual creatures to beat. Sounds like many parents will have Alexa and Google Home to thank for getting to school on time.

This is just ia sneak peek into what’s involved and how simple yet complex children are to develop voice-based technology for. To get a more in-depth guide, catch up with Adva Levin herself at VOICE Summit. If she's not giving a workshop on developing voice apps for kids, she's ready to chat and connect with fellow voice enthusiasts. 

Register for VOICE here and save your seat.