From aliens and animals, to fairies and flashcards, to presidents and pirates, to storytellers and superheroes—we’ve been having a ton of fun checking out the submissions for the Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids. We’ve vetted hundreds of submissions designed to educate, entertain, and engage children under 13. We danced. We raised virtual pets. We worked on our ninja moves. We improved our vocabulary. And after much deliberation, we’ve narrowed down the 20 finalists.
It wasn’t easy. We’ve been amazed by the tremendous creativity and innovation in the submissions. Some of the games were so fun we couldn’t stop playing! We saw some unique uses of Echo Show, including learning to play the piano and building an augmented-reality diorama. We were inspired by a skill designed to help children with autism. We were excited by a skill that uses AI to build a story based on the child’s answers, and a personal chatbot that interacts with MIT’s Scratch programming language for kids. Some of the submissions were ideal for younger children, and some for older kids. Ultimately, we chose the finalists based on their creativity and originality, a great voice-first user experience, and the skill’s potential impact and ability to educate, entertain, and engage.
Without further ado, here are the 20 finalist skills that will move on to round 2.
What’s in Store for Round 2?
Over the next few weeks, a select group of kids and their parents will provide input on the finalists and a few additional skills that could potentially win a bonus prize. (As per the official rules: “a Bonus Prize may be awarded to a skill that is not a Finalist Prize winner.”)
Ultimately, a panel of judges will determine the winners using their own expertise in the area of kids’ education and entertainment, the input from kids and parents, as well as customer engagement data (e.g., minutes of usage, new and returning customers, customer ratings, and more).
Please allow me introduce the judges for the Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids.
Alice Steinglass is the president at Code.org which makes some of the most popular computer science courses in America for students from kindergarten through high school. The organization prepares teachers to begin teaching computer science, and partners with education and software companies to run the Hour of Code, a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries.
“Kids love to create. One of my favorite things to do on our site is to browse the project gallery and see what students have made. Teaching computer science is about giving the students a new tool they can use to express themselves. And, who doesn't love the superpower of being able to make their own apps, games and websites?”
Ashley Andersen Zantop
General Manager, Learning & Development, Pinpoint Learning
Ashley Anderson Zantop is responsible for Pinpoint Learning’s strategy, thought leadership, and implementation of continuous learning and innovation programs for organizations serving K-12 and higher education. Prior to this, she was Chief Content Officer for Capstone, publisher of children’s books, literacy programs, and digital solutions for libraries, classrooms, and consumers.
“The best educational experiences for children have four key ingredients. (1) Engagement: tap into intrinsic interests such as animals, sports, or favorite characters. (2) Empowerment: enable children to proactively choose and achieve outcomes so they can learn from their own actions. (3) Exploration: allow children to create and innovate for powerful, lasting learning. (4) Communication: provide a forum to share achievements, such as a list of completed activities, show-and-tell with parents, a high score, or badge.”
Assistant Professor, University of Washington Information School
Jason Yip’s research examines how technologies can support parents and children learning together. He recently was awarded a research grant to study the use of IoT in homes of lower- and middle-income families. He is the director of KidsTeam UW, an intergenerational group of children and researchers co-designing new technologies and learning activities for children, with children.
“Co-engagement together is more important than the actual technology. Experiences that are designed for all ages encourage children and parents to engage together and talk about their shared experience. When players are excited to level up, they share progress with one another even if they play separately during the week. Leveling up helps children make sense of the short-term and long-term, that small things can lead to something bigger.”
Founder and CEO, Black Girls CODE
Kimberly Bryant is the Founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages 7-17) to the field of technology and computer science with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts. The organization has reached more than 7,000 students with 14 chapters in the US and South Africa. Kimberly received the prestigious Jefferson Award for Community Service, and the Ingenuity Award in Social Progress from the Smithsonian Institute. She has also been honored as a Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion by the White House.
“Creating tools that speak to the needs across multiple socio-economic spectrums should be the obvious goals as we develop and support developer communities. I'm excited to see the expansion of access to create these tools in the Alexa Skills Challenge, and look forward to seeing increasingly diverse creators share and discover their talents.”
General Manager, Amazon Kids and Family
Kurt Beidler is the General Manager of Kids and Family for Amazon, where he leads digital and hardware products, including Amazon FreeTime, Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, and Fire Kids Edition tablets. Prior to his current role, Beidler led major international media businesses for Amazon in Beijing, where he ran the physical media product categories for Amazon.cn and launched Amazon Kindle.
“My team creates products built from the ground up with families in mind, including the priorities of each important customer—offering kids the freedom to explore the content they love, while providing parents peace of mind that what their kids are seeing is age-appropriate.”
Senior VP, Digital and Business Development, Nickelodeon
Stefanie Schwartz manages the digital entertainment portfolio for Nickelodeon including paid mobile apps, e-books, digital video, and distribution relationships. Over the past 16 years, she’s served in a variety of different roles within Viacom including marketing and operations, strategy, and business development. She also served as VP of Production and Operations for the Nickelodeon Games Group, managing a cross-functional team that oversaw Nick's Virtual Worlds and Paid Mobile App Production.
“At Nickelodeon, our mission is simple: to make the world a more playful place. As a brand and company, we want to be everywhere kids are. We know that more and more families are using voice-activated devices in their homes, and are excited about the potential to bring fun, creative experiences to these devices in a kid-safe way. Kids love being able to interact with their favorite characters, and now they’re able to play in an entirely new way!”
VP, Amazon Alexa
Steve Rabuchin leads both the engineering and business teams responsible for bringing Alexa to connected devices (Alexa Voice Service), and enabling developers to deliver voice-powered experiences (Alexa skills). Prior to this role, he was responsible for the Amazon Appstore’s global app and game selection, developer outreach, business development, marketing, and international business operations. He also served as General Manager for the AmazonLocal, Kindle, and AWS businesses.
“We’re committed to providing a diverse selection of high-quality voice-powered experiences for the entire family. We’ve seen high-quality skills for kids solve unique challenges, as they need to suit shorter attention spans and accommodate sometimes unpredictable utterances. We’re still in the early stages, and are excited to see what new kid experiences developers create and customers love.”
The challenge winners will be announced on February 28. Meanwhile, keep the kid skills comin’! Get inspired by the finalists and create your own kid skill for Alexa.
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Source: Alexa Developer Blog