First Cortana-powered voice assistant for kids and parents is even better than an Amazon Echo

by Surur
January 4, 2017

CES has been flooded with Amazon Alexa-powered hardware, but it seems a Microsoft-powered voice assistant has managed to sneak onto the show floor.

Mattel’s new Aristotle smart home hub for kids and parents, unveiled at CES, is powered by Microsoft Cognitive Services, and will soon include  Cortana Intelligence technology, according to Mattel.

The Aristotle voice assistant is a partnership of Mattel’s nabi tech brand along with partner companies Microsoft, Qualcomm and Silk Labs and includes the device and a camera. It incorporated a smart light system that adjusts to serve as a night light, reading light and changing light, and includes support for Wink, Wemo, Smart Things, Philips Hue, ZigBee and IFTTT among others, to enable a range of other features.  It includes the ability to detect when a baby cries and automatically play a lullaby or turn the lights on low.

The camera does not just let parents keep an eye on their child, but laos  gives it the ability to identify objects—a flashcard for instance—or add new functionality like providing a voice for an otherwise lifeless doll.

In a learning session, the system can light up with green or red to let toddlers know if they’ve answered questions correctly. For older kids, the device can be used for homework help, music, games and foreign language lessons, among other features, and can be programmed to only respond if a child says “Please.”

Its skills include:

  • Automatically recognizes when a baby wakes up, and soothes them to sleep with a lullaby, white noise, a favorite song or a night light.
  • Logs wet diapers and feedings via voice commands or a phone app.
  • Automatically orders more diapers and/or formula from Target, Babies R Us and other participating retailers.
  • Automatically looks for deals and coupons on consumable baby supplies.
  • Actually recognizes and answers young kids’ questions after a brief voice recognition training session
  • Answers questions until your child falls asleep.
  • Plays guessing games with kids based on animal noises (say the name of the animal) or shapes held up to the camera (say the name of the shape), then lights up with the correct answer.
  • Reads aloud from a selection of thousands of children’s books, via partnerships.
  • Hosts sing-alongs and teaches ABCs and 1-2-3s.
  • Recognizes specially designed kids’ toys with embedded NFC chips, or with its camera, and provides sound effects when kids play with them (an upcoming Hot Wheels racetrack was one example).
  • Optionally requires kids to say “Please” when they ask Aristotle for things, to help teach manners.
  • Helps kids with homework.
  • Gives foreign language lessons. (Mattel says this is targeted at tweens, not younger children.)

The device uses voice-activated, AI-driven technologies, including Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and IoT Stream Analytics, to help parents nurture, teach and protect their kids. The power of AI, including Cortana Intelligence, brings Speech to Text, LUIS, CRIS and Text to Speech functionality, allowing the platform to learn patterns and autonomously act upon user habits to aid in child development and learning.

“Unlike other voice activated, AI-driven connected home platforms, Aristotle is designed with a specific purpose and mission: to aid parents and use the most advanced AI-driven technology to make it easier for them to protect, develop, and nurture the most important asset in their home—their children,” noted Mattel in a press release.

The module is  scheduled to be released this summer for $299.

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