Google is updating its Assistant platform to be more kid-friendly with a suite of new parental controls, voices, and more.
Prior to this, Google Assistant never really had any parental controls, but as the company claims in the announcement (opens in new tab), children commonly interact with shared devices so it saw fit to give parents the necessary tools to monitor them.
Assistant Parental Controls will allow users to control the type of content, features, and devices children have access to at home. For content, you can narrow things down to a handful of approved services like YouTube Kids or YouTube Music. Parents can also restrict access to news and podcasts. Select features like making phone calls can be disabled and given answers can be adjusted to be more age-appropriate. There will even be a new Downtime tool to set a schedule for when children can use Google Assistant.
Other new features
The age-appropriate answers come through the introduction of Kids Dictionary, which allows Assistant to provide “simplified... answers” to children. According to the announcement, the feature works by having Assistant recognize that a child is speaking and “understanding” that it’s being asked a question. Google gives the example of a child asking what a telescope is and the child receiving a basic definition from a Nest Hub display.
In order to use Kids Dictionary, you must first add your child’s voice to a supporting device. Instructions on how to do this are on the Google Assistant Help page (opens in new tab).
The last addition is the arrival of four new kid-friendly voices (opens in new tab). Google states these voices were designed with input from children and parents to reflect a variety of accents. They also speak in a slower and more expressive style when compared to the standard monotone voice (opens in new tab) for adults.
Everything in the update will be available to all US users within the coming weeks. It’s unknown at this time if there are plans for a global launch. Google states the Parental Controls will make their way to the Assistant, Home, and Family Link apps on both Android and iOS. Presumably, Kids Dictionary and the four voices will also go to those apps, but the announcement doesn't say for sure.
We reached out to Google for more clarification and asked how parents can switch voices to the more kid-friendly one. This story will be updated if we hear back.
The Google Assistant update is part of a long-running effort (opens in new tab) by the tech giant to empower parents to better protect their families. In fact, the Family Link mentioned earlier recently got a big makeover that changed its user interface and added a new location tracking feature. Plus, Google TV got new parent-controlled watchlists as a way to more easily monitor content.
But let’s say that isn’t enough and you want more protection tools for your family or want to suggest some. We recommend checking out TechRadar’s best identity theft protection list for families. These security packages offer tools like a password manager, anti-malware protection, and VPNs.
Update 11-3-2022: A Google representative got back to us and confirmed the update is only available in the US "at the moment" so it could launch elsewhere at some point in the future. They go on to say that the Kids Dictionary and four voices will only be "available on all Assistant-powered speakers, display, and mobile devices." And as for how to change voices to a more kid-friendly one, a set of instructions on how to do this can be found on the Google Assistant Help page (opens in new tab).