Amazon Alexa includes AI Storytelling for the little ones
January 4, 2023
Currently, Amazon is making an incursion in generative AI, a very innovative technology known for producing fantastic art based on text indications that represents one of the most sacred bonding experiences for parents and children: bedtime storytelling. For that reason, today we’re gonna explore what Amazon is planning to implement on this voice assistant.
Alexa’s new feature
This Alexa’s new feature creates short stories for children composed of five scenes based on some indications. As you see, “Create with Alexa” is a method that allows kids and parents select from given themes like underwater, enchanted forest and space exploration and pick a character, a descriptive word and a color so that they can sit back and wait as the AI comes up with different stories, visuals, audio dialogues and background music.
For the moment, the feature available on Echo Show devices, it is based on AI generative that implements language models, which ingest large amounts of text to learn how to create sentences similar to how people talk. Additionally, the algorithm that powers Create with Alexa is trained on a database of commercially available visuals as well as Amazon’s own proprietary content.
What experts says
Although some experts say the company has created safeguards to ensure that the technology isn’t spouting anything inappropriate for young ears. Plus, Create With Alexa could help foster more shared experiences for children and parents.
Nonetheless, AI researchers also warn that this kind of technology could work as a double-edged sword, since AI could mystify children’s understanding of AI’s capabilities and intelligence.
On the other hand, Eshan Bhatnagar, head of product for Alexa AI at Amazon, says that this feature was designed with safety in mind. In fact, the technology has strong safeguards that includes content filtering, training the AI on a curated dataset that is free of toxic content, and most importantly, setting up a structured and restricted experience.
“We are being cautious, and conservative in our approach to how we want to expose some of the generative capabilities to our customers.”, says Bhatnagar.
Can the safeguards fully protect kids?
Actually, it is almost impossible to protect children from the influence of intelligent computer systems like Alexa. For instance, Stefania Druga, researcher on creative AI at the University of Washington, found in one of her researches that interacting with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home is not recommended.
Above we talked about how this technology can influence how children understand the intelligence of computers, and Dr. Druga’s thoughts reaffirm this theory by saying that Create with Alexa can influence kids’ judgments about how intelligent the computer actually is and whether it’s a trustworthy source.
“What I’ve seen in my research is that the kids don’t even know how to read and write when they start interacting with a voice assistant. And if that’s their first introduction into searching anything on the web, that really colors their experience on how they process information,” Druga says. “Because if it’s spoken to them with a nice voice as a human would talk, they don’t really see that this is just like the first result from a search on the web, then it’s harder to develop this critical sense of whether they should trust this or not.”
During the last year, many companies like Amazon have tried to implement their own generative AI strategies that are both safe and entertaining for children and even though this involves a great effort on the part of the developers, the experience of traditional storytelling (that represents a nostalgic milestone that can’t be forgotten) is far from being thrown away by a digital version. It is also important to mention that the direct contact with technology from an early age can atrophy the kids’ senses in many ways.