Amazon Alexa wants to put your child to bed with generative AI

Amazon Alexa wants to put your child to bed with generative AI

While researchers applaud Amazon’s safeguards to ensure the technology is safe for children, some experts worry that generative AI could trick children into believing these algorithms are smarter than they actually are. .

Generative AI, which is known for producing fantasy art based on text prompts, is now creeping into one of the most sacred bonding experiences for parents and children: bedtime storytelling.

Amazon is jumping on the generative AI craze with a new Alexa feature that creates five-scene short stories for kids based on a few prompts. Called “Create with Alexa,” the feature lets kids and parents choose from given themes like underwater exploration, enchanted forest, and outer space and choose a character, descriptive word, and color. Then they sit and wait for the AI ​​to come up with different stories, visuals, audio dialogues, and background music.

As Amazon jumps on board the generative AI craze, some experts say the company has created safeguards to ensure the tech doesn’t play anything inappropriate for young ears, and Create with Alexa could help foster more shared experiences for children and parents. But AI researchers also warn that stories made with generative AI could mystify children’s understanding of AI capabilities and intelligence.

The feature, which is available on Echo Show devices, relies on generative AI, algorithms that use existing content to create new content. Specifically, it implements language models, which ingest large amounts of text to learn how to create sentences similar to how people speak. The algorithm that powers Create With Alexa is trained on a database of commercially available visuals as well as proprietary content from Amazon.

Eshan Bhatnagar, product manager for Alexa AI at Amazon, says Create With Alexa was built with security in mind. The technology has three safeguards in place, including content filtering, training AI on a curated dataset free of toxic content, and most importantly, providing a structured and restricted experience. “We wanted to avoid the garbage-in-garbage tendency of AI,” Bhatnagar says, referring to the likelihood of AI rendering inappropriate content based on the type of inputs that are fed into it. “We are careful and conservative in our approach to how we want to expose some of the generative capabilities to our clients.”

Stefania Druga, a creative AI researcher at the University of Washington, said Amazon’s decision to create Alexa’s new storytelling feature by structuring it around a few input prompts that ask users to choose from a given set of patterns can help make generative AI safer for children. . “I think this approach of providing curated models and really trying to curate the experience and control what kinds of generations can be entered into the system is very promising,” Druga said. Forbes.

But these safeguards cannot completely protect children from the influence of intelligent computer systems like Alexa. Druga found in his research article “Hey Google, is it okay if I eat you?” Initial Explorations of Child-Agent Interaction, “that interaction with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home can influence how children understand the intelligence of computers. She says Create With Alexa could mystify the abilities of AI for children, influencing their judgments about the real intelligence of the computer and whether it is a reliable source.

“What I’ve seen in my research is that kids can’t even read and write when they start interacting with a voice assistant. And if this is their first introduction to research on the web, it really colors their experience of how they process information,” Druga says. “Because if it’s spoken to them in a nice voice like a human would, they don’t really see that it’s like the first result of a web search, then it’s harder to develop that critical sense of whether they should believe it or not.

Rather than portraying generative AI as magical, omniscient technology, it should be viewed as technology that can be tinkered with and used to advance a craft, Druga says. To do this, it’s also important to make sure kids understand the technology and know what’s going on under the hood. “I think it’s important not to give them these already pre-chewed apps and content but also to give them tools to create with this technology,” she says.

Sandra Cortesi, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, says parents should avoid technologies that encourage their children to passively consume media. In the case of Create With Alexa, Cortesi wonders if parents want to expose their children to more screen time in the form of video storytelling. “I prefer technologies that have some sort of active character rather than another thing where you watch and consume,” Cortesi says.

This isn’t the first time Amazon has ventured into storytelling technology. In 2017, the company released Magic Door, an interactive adventure game that lets users decide every step of a story. The non-linear experience does not use any kind of AI but has 200 different scenes. Similar to “Create with Alexa”, it lets users choose prompts such as forests, seas, and enchanted lands and decide which scene will appear next. Earlier this year, Amazon also launched CodeWhisperer, a machine learning-based coding assistant.

Over the past year, leading startups have launched trendy text-to-image generative AI models like Dall-E 2 and Stable Diffusion, which have captured the imagination of millions on social media. . The startups behind these types of algorithms such as Stability AI and Runway ML have raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital funding and achieved high valuations. OpenAI, the company that released Dall-E 2, last week unveiled ChatGPT, a chatbot capable of writing essays, coding, and providing detailed (but sometimes inaccurate) answers to questions.

These companies are using machine learning to generate new text and image content rather than combining the two into a video format like Amazon Alexa has done. But other generative AI tools focus on storytelling, including Storywizard AI, which uses generative AI to create stories with plot-based imagery illustrating moral concepts like friendship and overcoming fear. , and Novel AI, which bills itself as “a GPT-powered sandbox.” for your imagination.

Storytelling that uses generative AI can be a medium for inspiration and creativity in children. Cortesi says the stories produced by generative AI could inspire users to build online fanfiction communities and create additional stories that build on what the AI ​​produces.

Amazon Alexa’s Bhatnagar Says Tablet Will Never Replace Storybook; instead, it will increase experience. Cortesi adds that traditional storytelling is far from being abandoned for a digital version.

“For parents and children, stories are something we can be nostalgic about,” says Cortesi. “I still remember when my parents used to tell me stories.”

“I hope parents, who already have a ton of chores and responsibilities, don’t just hand this tool to their kids and say, ‘Go ahead, make history. Good night.'”

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