How a 4-year-old uses Alexa and why adults should be copying them for voice to succeed

Over the last year, I have seen how myself and those around me have interacted with voice assistants at both work and home to save time. The place I find the technology used the most is with my children, just as swiping and pinching on mobile is intuitive for toddlers, speaking is for children.

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

During one Saturday I found that my children used Alexa more times than I did and what was amazing is they did not get annoyed when the device got things wrong or misunderstood, they just changed how they asked the questions. For them being able to control the lights, play music, change the TV (when supervised), set a timer, ask how to spell a word, make a fart sound are all things normally they cannot do without an adult.

As adults, we can get flustered when technology goes wrong; we use our existing bias and knowledge of older technology on the new platforms.

Google is a mature platform, it tends to return what you want correctly over 90% of the time, so this can become the benchmark for new tech when a technology is still in its infancy such as voice we cannot expect the same level of resilience. We need to use the technology the way it is intended for, so it can get better and become as reliable as Google is today.

Kids, due to there lack of previous technical knowledge are patient, they just keep asking until getting it right and then they learn how to ask in the future.

An example of my children trying to play ‘I Like to Move It” from Madagascar 2 by Will.I.Am
“Alexa, Alexa, Alexa”

Waits for the blue light

“Alexa, play I like to move it.”

I cannot find move it

“Alexa, Please play I like to move it on Spotify.”

Playing XXX

[Shouts] “Dad….”

Me: “It is by Will.I.Am”

“Alexa, Play I like to move it by will I am on Spotify.”

Playing I like to move it by Will.I.Am on Spotify

Next time

“Alexa Play I like to move it.”

Playing I like to move it by Will.I.Am on Spotify

Due to the number of times we have to listen to this track in our house, our Alexa devices can now recognise it from even a mumble from a 4-year-old.

On occasion, the Alexa device does not pick it up his request for this song, but when this happens, my son does not get annoyed or angry at the device. He simply asks the question again, extended the request sentence adding more context around his request.

Though he does not know this, he is providing a constant feedback loop to the learning system behind Alexa, compared to us adults who just get annoyed and walk away though this will not make the technology better.