In his never-final quest to bring whole 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 using Alexa-enabled devices in a controlled environment. Amazon says it is “reinventing the way kids can connect with family and distant friends.”
Amazon Glow — not to be confused with Glow echo, a smart lamp for kids– contains a vertical smartphone screen in a giant speaker box that looks like a comically tall cellphone from the 90s. It has an 8 inch LCD screen, and it projects a touch area of about 19 inches in diameter. Kids can share their “virtual space” in real time using the Amazon Glow app. People on the other end can use Alexa on an Android or iOS device, and Amazon will bring compatibility with Fire OS soon.
Each 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 object scanning, so kids can create virtual stickers to send or even complete a puzzle with Grammy on the other row. Children can also read with an adult, play a simple game of chess or Go Fish, and draw with someone else.
Amazon said it worked with Disney, Mattel, Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop to create interactive content for Glow. It opens 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 parents care about this is what parental controls look like. As on the Echo show devices, parents can configure the Glow so that children can only call contacts that parents have pre-approved. There is also a privacy shutter on the camera, and a hardware mute button to turn off the microphone. The Glow is not compatible with Alexa, so Amazon says it doesn’t collect voice recordings.
Amazon Glow appears to be extracting some child-centric abilities available in similar devices like Facebook Portal, which has Alexa built in. In addition to allowing 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 limited and the device has access to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger when unlocked.
Amazon Glow also incorporates some of the additional features of tablets such as the iPad. You can purchase a third-party accessory like the Osmo projector to get a similar experience of the physical-meet-virtual world of learning and play.
If you would like to experience 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 $ 250, although it will cost $ 300. 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.