A new study from the University of Washington revealed something that you might not have thought of when it comes to how children interact with Alexa and similar AI assistants. Actually, the researchers themselves didn’t even expect the outcome. Before your kiddo’s next frustrating exchange with your home’s AI happens, read on to find out what science says about children, voice-activated virtual assistants and language development.

When researchers from the UW Information School tried to evaluate preschoolers’ executive function skills by having them play a Sesame Workshop game on a tablet, they found that the technology had a difficult time accepting the not-so-clear verbal responses the kiddos’ were giving.

When your tot talks, you understand them. But that doesn’t mean everyone does. Based on this research, it also looks like the AI in your home won’t understand them either. And this obviously impacts how your child uses assistants like Alexa or Siri.

Oh, but if you think the inability for AI to understand a toddler’s or preschooler’s voice will stop your child from using it, you’d be wrong. The researchers found that the children persisted, even when their vocal commands weren’t understood or accepted.

So what does this mean for parents? Well it might mean that their children are missing out on all kinds of AI-led interactive experiences. If you’re wondering, “Well what can I do to help my child interact with this type of technology?”—the answer may not have anything to do with you.

While AI assistants have totally transformed the way adults use technology (and have fabulously simplified life for us), it looks like those vocal recognition skills need some work. At least, when it comes to understanding the not-so-sophisticated speech of your mini me.

—Erica Loop

All photos: Courtesy of Amazon


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