Amazon has never shied away from making weird gadgets that require a bit of explanation, but the new Amazon Glow could take home the weirdest award in several years. It is a video conferencing device that also has a built-in tabletop projector. The idea is that younger children quickly get bored with video chats and walk away, leaving their remote relative staring at an empty screen. Therefore, Amazon Glow can project games, books or puzzles on a table where children and their parents (or grandparents) can play together.
Amazon Glow will cost $ 299.99 when it launches widely, but for now, anyone who wants one will need to apply to an invite-only program (and get an introductory price of $ 249.99). It comes with one year of Amazon Kids Plus content service, has a two-year warranty against all breakages and spills, and also comes with a set of interactive tools. tangram shapes children can use to solve puzzles. The first units should ship in mid-October and only in the US to get started.
Setting up Amazon Glow will likely be the first challenge for parents. It has the characteristically good parental controls from Amazon, so for the device to work, parents will log in and establish a list of trusted people that their children can call with it.
But it also has the added challenge of not being the only device they will need to configure. At the other end of each call, the parent or grandparent will need to install a custom Amazon Glow app on their tablet – it works with iPads and Android tablets, and Amazon’s Fire tablets will be available soon. It can also work with phones, but it is not ideal for them.
Therefore, a parent, in theory, will need to learn how to set up the Glow, teach their child the basics (Amazon says it is aimed at children between the ages of three and nine), and finally teach their own parents or family members. how the tablet apps work.
The Glow itself is designed to sit at an indoor table, preferably not too close to a well-lit window. It has an eight-inch screen for video chat and projects a second screen onto a 19-inch flat white mat that comes with the device (and which Amazon promises is relatively easy to clean). A child can call their family member by pressing a speed dial button on the front screen and from there it works like any other video chat app.
But this video chat app has a shared screen: what the child sees projected on the table is reflected on the remote iPad. That screen can host several different activities; there are books, games, puzzles and some basic learning apps. It’s all within Amazon’s Kids Plus ecosystem, and it’s unclear how much Glow can do once the included one-year subscription expires. (Typically Kids Plus costs $ 2.99 per month.)
Some of the interactions seem really neat. The books are animated with Disney cartoon characters. Frozen, Toy story, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Dora the explorer, Sesame Street, and more. They can solve puzzles together. There are also drawing apps – the projector can track a child’s hand using infrared sensors so they can touch or draw on the mat. It also has another downward-pointing camera so a child can put a toy in and scan it, turning it into a small object that they can incorporate into their drawing.
The games include standards like Chess, Checkers, Go Fish, and Memory Matching, and Amazon says you can scale the difficulty level up and down, which could help you adapt to older and younger kids. You can also replace the pieces in some games: dragons, pirates or dinosaurs instead of checkers, for example.
It’s possible to drop your kid in front of a Glow and let them play with it themselves (even with screen time limits), but we had to explicitly ask Amazon if this was possible multiple times before they accepted it. The intention here really is for it to only be used for more engaging video calling, although it’s easy to see similarities between Glow’s games and other tablet-based gaming / learning systems. as Osmo.
Amazon will also sell add-on packages for Glow, and the company uses the included tangrams as an example of what to expect. When a child puts the shapes together to form a shark, for example, it will animate on the projected screen and swim around.
The Amazon Glow Can only call tablets right now; cannot communicate with another glow. Both the child and the adult on the other end of the call have control over the screen. There’s also a physical privacy shutter switch on the right side – pull it down and it disables the microphones and covers the video chat camera.
Amazon says it started developing the Glow before the pandemic started, but it sure looks like a device designed for the present moment, a time when it is much more difficult for families to gather in the same space. Some Edge Parents have had a hard time getting our own kids to stay engaged with grandparents in video chats, so we’re curious if they could come close to what Amazon has to offer.