Amazon Alexa might be powered by artificial intelligence, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s always smart. The voice assistant has a habit of occasionally dispensing information to kids that they don’t need. That has changed thanks to a new update that introduces new, kid-friendly answers when the device is in FreeTime mode.
When the mode –which allows parents to set up a curated and limited version of the Alexa experience for kids to use — is activated, Alexa will modify some of the answers it provides in order to offer up more appropriate responses. For example, the voice assistant will tell kids that Santa Claus is real, but will say that it doesn’t know who Stormy Daniels is.
Amazon is reportedly working with child psychologists to generate some of the new answers as the company works to make sure Alexa not only gets smarter in what it knows, but in how it delivers the information, according to the Associated Press. “Alexa isn’t intended to be a replacement parent or caregiver,” the company said in a statement. “So we believe it’s important we treat these answers with empathy and point the child to a trusted adult when applicable.”
So what’s new in Alexa’s new, kid-appropriate selection of answers? For one, the voice assistant will direct kids to their parents when it comes to the tough questions about life. When asked, “Where do babies come from?” Alexa will explain, “People make people, but how they’re made would be a better question for a grown-up.” If a kid asks “What happens when you die?” the A.I. assistant will say, “That’s a hard question to answer. If you’re wondering about this, you should ask someone in your family, a teacher, or a friend who you know and trust.”
Alexa is also now programmed to not spoil Christmas for any adolescent who is still waiting to find presents from Santa under the tree (though it also won’t lie to them about old Saint Nick, either). When asked if Santa Claus is real, Alexa will tell kids, “Just check if the cookies you set out for him are gone Christmas morning.”
On more adult topics, the smart assistant will play dumb. If prompted by a kid to explain what marijuana is, Alexa will say, “I am not able to answer that.”
Adults looking to make use of the new, kid-friendly responses can do so by activating FreeTime through the Amazon Alexa app. The mode is available on Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot devices.