We all know children ask a lot of questions, but what happens when you don’t know the answers? Just tell them to ask Alexa. Now voice recognition has become commonplace in homes across the globe, we explore how children have become a key audience for this technology – and the implications for brands as these users develop into the consumers of tomorrow.
She has 40,000 skills banked up in her tiny dimensions. She plays music, tells dad-jokes, is multi-lingual and even follows your favourite football club – she’s the ideal woman, the faultless intellect, and a virtual assistant. Virtual being the key word here. Amazon Alexa is the pioneer in smart speakers – faceless, yet personable, with no human features, but a built-in human nature. To look at, she’s nothing more than a small, round speaker. And the unplanned, but unsurprising beauty of her design is that you don’t need to know how to read or write to be able to learn from her. Talking to, voicing commands and interacting with Alexa has become as second-nature to kids today as unlocking an iPhone.
Meet Generation X. Also known as iGeneration and Centennials, this is the world’s youngest age cohort – and the most technologically advanced. If you were born after 1995, you’re one of the first members of this bracket – yet its youngest members are growing up in a digital climate completely different to that which began 23 years ago.
Since 1995, the population has exploded – rocketing from five to 7.6 billion. Three billion of which are estimated to be on Facebook by 2020. 94% of American children aged 3 to 18 have a computer at home, 77% of us have smart phones, and now, millions of people have a virtual assistant. Alexa… Google Home… Sonos One… and of course, Apple’s Siri – audio is booming. These devices set up dates in the calendar, remember your shopping list and now, they teach your children too.
The online forecaster eMarketer predicts that the compound annual growth of our automated friends will continue to rise at a rate of 47.9% between 2016 and 2020 in the US. This signifies an upsurge from 16 million devices two years ago, to 76.5 million in the same time again – meaning children born today won’t know a world without this immediate source of knowledge.
It’s the perfect tool for the young – after all, kids learn to communicate out-loud long before they can write, or type. They can ask 100 questions a day to Alexa and she’ll answer instantly, enthusiastically and without losing her tether (unlike a weary parent). Recognising this potential, Amazon and Google have each created ‘skill apps’ designed to help educate children and families alike on daily skills and healthy cooking. Sprout Foods has been one of the first to get on board – seeing how young children are enamoured with audio technology, and harnessing it in their own voice app. The star of their show? The all singing ‘Sophie Sprout’ who’s turning tea-time into an exciting interactive singing experience.
And it’s not just lifestyle Alexa enhances, it’s education too. The Spelling Bee app turns what could be an intimidating game, into something you can play as many rounds as it takes to get the results you want – without the risk of being laughed at. And for those more numerically challenged, apps including ‘Math Mania’ are the perfect way to build on your skills. There’s also apps specifically designated to your favourite dinosaur facts, state capitals, knock-knock jokes and even bedtime stories.
Exposed to this technology from a young age, children are growing up in a world where tools like Alexa are a lifeblood of information. Interacting with brands by voice is becoming second nature for our youngest generation. And as they continue to embrace the vocal, the today’s businesses must ready themselves to connect with the audio-adept consumers of the future.