The Future of Voice Technology for Kids

The stories featured this week see voice technology and assistants developing into new areas of kids’ lives beyond the smart speaker. We’ve seen this coming, particularly in regards to education and teaching opportunities, and now it is starting to materialize. Beyond utilizing various smart speakers and creating content for kids, we are now seeing products designed with stand-alone voice agents or specific voice applications. Whether it’s a voice-enabled mobile app, an electric scooter or a toddler playset, voice assistant access is permeating kids lives. This propels the idea that future generations won’t just prefer voice assistants as an interface, but that they will expect them to be built into everything they interact with.

Header image source

Google’s Read Along with Diya 

In response to school closures due to COVID-19, Google has launched a new reading skill development app for children called Read Along. The app utilizes Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech capabilities to assist with learning. Additionally, the new app includes a native voice assistant called Diya. According to TechCrunch “As kids read aloud, Diya detects if the child is struggling with a passage and can jump in with positive reinforcement or help. At any time, the child can ask Diya to help them read a sentence or pronounce a word they don’t know.” While this isn’t Google’s first foray into children’s educational content, the emphasis on the use of voice technology and assistants throughout signals that this will continue to be an area of focus for developers. More on TechCrunch.

Scootin’ with Voice 

Xiaomi has produced a new electric scooter for kids that has speakers and a voice assistant on-board. The new Ninebot Nano scooter’s assistant is able to provide riding instructions as well as safety tips to children using it. Additionally, the scooter will facilitate various parental controls for speed and allow music to play over the speakers via bluetooth. We have seen many voice assistant providers coalesce around creating offerings for the kids audience, but bringing an assistant into a physical toy like a scooter is a relatively new endeavor. Given the growth of connected-everything, we expect to see more of this type of voice-augmentation for kids equipment in the near-future. More on Voicebot AI.

Accelerating In-Car Voice Assistance for OEMs 

Nuance Communications’ automotive spin-off company, Cerence has launched a new turnkey in-car voice assistant solution for automotive manufacturers. The company says that the new product, named the ARK assistant, “provides OEMs the ability to quickly develop, deploy and manage an automotive voice assistant without sacrificing the performance, flexibility and breadth of capabilities that Cerence is known for.” Key capabilities included will allow manufacturers to access built-in speech recognition, voice output, data management, vehicle integration services and more. More on GlobeNewswire.

Stats Don’t Lie

8.2% – Q1 2020 increase in global smart speaker sales. (data via Strategy Analytics)

63% – Consumers using voice assistants on their smartphone at least once per week. (data via NPR & Edison)

Chart of the Week

Baidu Smart Speaker Sales by Quarter 2018 2019 2020
(Voicebot AI)