“Alexa, turn on the lights!” Digital voice assistants help many families organize their everyday lives. They have names like Alexa, Echo, Siri or Cortana and are used via so-called smart speakers or smartphones.
In order to adapt the use of the voice assistants to one’s own needs, so-called “skills” can be activated. Skills, like apps on smartphones, are small third-party utilities. Depending on the device, they are also called “actions” (Google) or “additional commands” (Apple). Skills are also used via voice commands.
They give the voice assistants additional functions and can therefore be used individually. Smart home skills ensure, for example, that lamps, thermostats or the TV can be controlled with the help of the voice assistant. Services can be used with service skills. For example, you can look for a suitable train connection, order a pizza from a delivery service or listen to the daily news. Such a voice command reads, for example: “Alexa, ask Deutsche Bahn for a connection from Berlin to Munich tomorrow at 12 o’clock”.
The selection of skills is large. Skills are practical supporters for everyday life, and not just for adults. There is also a wide range of offers for adolescents. For example, children can learn about the countries of the world through play via learning skills or listen to interactive audio stories of their favorite characters. Many companies, but also public broadcasters, make their offerings available in the form of skills, such as the children’s news from KiRaKa or Mikado. The variety of child-friendly skills also opens up many application possibilities for families. Timetable Skills inform parents and children quickly and easily. The teeth brushing skill makes the daily routine easier. Joint games about skills with digital dice cups or imaginary memory cards can also enrich everyday family life. In memory, for example, a pair always consists of two identical sounds and is numbered so that an assignment can be made orally.
When using voice assistants and skills, you should be aware that they are always listening when switched on. Thus, a great deal of personal data and information is collected. How these are stored and processed depends on the respective provider and is not always communicated transparently. With some providers, the voice recording histories can be deleted. Read more in our article Smarter family life with Alexa & Co.?.
The data processing of the individual skills should also be checked with the respective external provider before installation. By using the skills, you agree to the transmission of usage data to the third-party provider. Therefore, when choosing should be well informed.
Skills are for the most part available free of charge. In the meantime, however, there are isolated so-called in-skill purchases. These are, similar to apps, advanced features that are chargeable. When looking for skills for kids, keep this in mind.
As helpful as the digital assistants are, you should still inform yourself carefully before activating them. There is a wide range of extensions. Some skills seem okay at first glance, but they can be used to access content that is not suitable for adolescents. For this reason, it is also advisable to secure adult content and orders with a code. Furthermore, voice assistants should be turned off overnight, at least when you or your family is not at home. Educate your child about how voice assistants and skills work and the disadvantages they bring.