Google yesterday announced 50 kid-friendly Google Assistant apps and a new Family Link feature to enable parental oversight of their children’s interaction with the service. Google highlighted the fun games that children can now play on Google Home. These include everything from “Space Trivia” to “Mickey Mouse Adventure” and “What’s My Justice League Super Hero.” I spoke with Google Assistant group product manager Brad Abrams today and he is really excited about the new features.
Just watching my own kids interact with new technology is amazing. When they interact with these voice-first technologies, they are natives at it. They get it. The understand what it can do and the power of it. And, they are not afraid to use it in experiments. In some ways, kids are our best users. It’s really exciting that we can have the developer community go and directly address family scenarios.
Family Link Enables You to Set up Children as Google Home Users
This follows Amazon’s announcement in early September that it was allowing Alexa skills for kids. Google is enabling this through it’s new Family Link service. Family Link covers a variety of Android-based devices including smartphones and Google Home use.
“Family Link lets you create a Google Account for your child that’s like your account, while also helping you set certain digital ground rules that work for your family — like managing the apps your child can use, keeping an eye on screen time, and setting a bedtime on your child’s device.”
Family Link is only available today in the U.S. and New Zealand. It also requires a small payment which Google says is nominal and an additional way to validate that it was indeed the parents that gave permission. The reasoning is that the payment shows up on a parent’s credit card providing another notification of Family Link being activated for the children.
“With their parent’s permission, children under 13 can also have their own personalized Google Assistant experience when they log in with their own account…Family Link helps parents manage their child’s Google Account while they explore. And with Voice Match, your family can train the Assistant to recognize who’s speaking, up to six voices.”
Verifiable Consent Enables Children to Legally Enjoy Voice Assistant Games
Formerly, voice apps targeting children were prohibited on both the Alexa and Google Assistant platforms because they could not comply to federal regulations associated with the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). That rule restricted recording children under 13 while they were speaking. That effectively eliminated any legal use of smart speakers by children because they must speak to interact with the system. Changes to the law in June provided a path for Amazon and Google to allow third-party developers to make kid-friendly voice apps. The platforms simply must obtain verifiable consent from the parents. Family Link is Google’s new approach to capture that verifiable consent.
One interesting side note. The video above only shows Google Home Mini in use. There is nary a sign of the original Google Home. That may be because the colors and size make Google Home Mini seem more kid appropriate. But, it is worth noting that the new kid on the block is displacing the Google Home as the standby for advertising.