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Bezos Family Foundation's Early Childhood Program Comes to Amazon's Alexa

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Vroom, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation that translates research on children's brain development into tips for parents, is being woven into the cloud-based voice service, Alexa.

Alexa is an Amazon service available on the company's products and third-party device manufacturers that provides users with a way to interact with technology.

On all Alexa devices, parents and caregivers will now be able to access Vroom tips customized to the age of their child. By activating the Vroom "skill," or built-in ability on Alexa-enabled devices, the device will send an accompanying Vroom card for a learning activity to customers through the Alexa smartphone app.

In addition, the Vroom feature on Alexa can respond to a user with a "brain-building" tip for children ages 5 and under while a parent is engaged in an activity with their child.

Optimized for Amazon Echo Spot and Echo Show devices, Vroom includes videos that share the science behind Vroom's tips and show families modeling each activity. For example, if a parent is cooking, they can ask Alexa for a Vroom tip related to cooking without having to access another device.

"This is an important step in Vroom's efforts to expand support for caregivers, by using technology to spark positive interactions with children that help young brains grow strong," said Jackie Bezos, president and co-founder of the Bezos Family Foundation, in a statement.

Examples of Vroom activities for parents include playing peek-a-boo with their children, talking with their child about what they are cooking, and taking turns listing things they are thankful for with their child while getting ready for bedtime. Each activity is accompanied by a "Brainy Background" describing how the activity helps children develop language, reading, and memory skills, as well as creativity.

Amazon is a player in the K-12 market in a number of areas. The company's offerings include cloud-based storage for districts through Amazon Web Services, an online math curriculum, TenMarks, and creating online purchasing options for schools through Amazon Business for Education.

Vroom was first launched in February 2015 as a smartphone app on Android and iOS mobile devices.

"To reach parents at scale, Vroom started with an app which now has more than 1,000 science-based brain-building tips," Elyse Rowe, Bezos Family Foundation senior communications manager, said in an e-mail. "We've taken what we learned from launching and evolving the app and applied it to developing the Amazon Alexa skill."

Rowe wrote that there is no cost for both the Vroom smartphone app and its supplementary Alexa skill. She also emphasized the role parents have in helping their children learn in the early years of their lives, as their brains grow fastest during that time.

"Science shows that every time we engage with young children—by looking into their eyes, reading, giggling or babbling—we're fueling healthy development and building their brains. Vroom helps the adults in the life of a child become powerful brain-builders."

Daily age-appropriate tips that the foundation says are grounded in scientific research about early childhood development can be sent to parents' phones, or now accessed through Amazon Echo devices.

Photo: Vroom shown on an Alexa-enabled device, courtesy of the Bezos Foundation.


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