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Apr 25, 2018

Amazon aims to boost Echo sales by targeting bored children

Amazon Echo, Echo Plus

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If you thought Jeff Bezos’s ambition of delivering packages via drones was ambitious, now he’s really outdone himself. Amazon.com Inc. is promising to entertain bored children with a device that spits out knock-knock jokes on demand. It’ll teach them good manners, too.

The world’s biggest online retailer will release new kid-focused skills for its Alexa digital assistant on May 9, along with an US$80 Echo Dot voice-controlled speaker designed for children.

The gadget comes with "FreeTime on Alexa," which lets parents turn off voice purchasing, filter songs with bad words that their children might stream and set time limits to stop kids chatting to Alexa late into the night.

Restless children need not bother their parents. They can say, "Alexa, I’m bored," to get an age-appropriate suggestion, or ask for a song or knock-knock joke. A new "Magic Word" feature encourages kids to say “please” when asking Alexa questions. Those paying US$3 a month get more, like Audible children’s books and kid-friendly music stations.

"The more they use Alexa, the smarter she will get," Amazon said in a statement.

The company has been using Alexa technology and Echo speakers to deepen its reach into customers’ homes. The devices can be used to set alarms, thermostats and dim lights via voice command, as well as shop.

The company is also creating new subscriptions to boost revenue. More than 100 million Prime members already pay yearly or monthly fees in exchange for fast shipping, video and music streaming. The new skills for Alexa show Amazon trying to win customers earlier in their lives. It already offers discounts to new parents and college students.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition includes a two-year "worry-free guarantee," where Amazon will replace the device for free if there are problems.