Amazon just made a video chat device for kids
In its never-ending quest to integrate entire families into its ecosystem, Amazon has announcement a new smart speaker/video chat device called Glow. It is intended for children to video chat with others with Alexa-enabled devices in a controlled environment. Amazon says it’s “reinventing the way kids can connect with distant family and friends.”
The Amazon Glow — not to be confused with the echo glow, a smart lamp for kids – integrates a vertical smartphone screen into a giant speaker box that looks like a cell phone from the 90s. It has an 8-inch LCD screen and projects a touch area of approximately 19 inches in diameter. Kids can share their “virtual space” in real time using the Amazon Glow app. People on the other side can use Alexa on an Android or iOS device, and Amazon will bring Fire OS compatibility soon.
Every Amazon Glow device comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+, unlocking Glow’s many games and apps. The app includes “hundreds of hours” of interactive activities, including scanning objects, so kids can create virtual stickers to send or even complete a puzzle with Grammy on the other line. Kids can also read with an adult, play a simple game of chess or Go Fish, and draw with someone else.
Amazon said it collaborated with Disney, Mattel, Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop to create interactive content for Glow. It is opening up development to a “limited set of partners” in the first half of next year to create more content for the Glow platform. It will also sell Glow Bits Learning Kits to unlock additional content. The first Bits kit is a Tangram puzzle game, and it comes with the purchase of Glow.
Of course, the biggest question on the minds of parents is what parental controls look like. Like on the Echo Show devices, parents can configure the Glow so kids can only call contacts that parents have previously approved. There’s also a privacy shutter on the camera and a hardware mute button to turn off the microphone. The Glow isn’t compatible with Alexa, so Amazon says it doesn’t collect voice recordings.
Amazon Glow seems to pull some child-centric capabilities available in similar devices like the Facebook Portal, which integrates Alexa. In addition to enabling video chat, your child and someone else can read a virtual book together using Story Time. However, the parental control on the Facebook portal are restricted and the device has access to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger when unlocked.
Amazon Glow also incorporates some of the add-on capabilities of tablets like the iPad. You can purchase a third-party accessory like the Osmo projector to get a similar experience of the physical and virtual world of learning and playing.
If you want to check out the device, you can request an invitation to be part of the Glow early access program. The Glow is currently available for an introductory price of US$250 ($346) in select regions, though it will retail for US$300 ($415). Glow also comes with a mat and mat case, as well as a two-year warranty. Amazon says if it breaks you can return it and it will replace it for free.
We’ll have to test the Glow to verify its privacy claims and see how it compares to Portal (and FaceTime on an iPad) for connecting kids and family. Stay tuned for a full review.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for local prices and availability in Australia.