Amazon unleashed a number of new devices in fall 2021, with one in particular designed for kids ages 3 to 9. The product is especially useful for kids in remote learning or distant communication situations. The Amazon Glow is an Echo-like device with a focus on engaging activities and digital communication. Let’s take a look at everything it can do and how to find one if you’re interested in trying it out.
Amazon Glow basics
The Glow is made of two important parts. The first part is an 8-inch touchscreen device and smart speaker, a bit like a vertical version of an Echo Show, and like that model, the Glow includes mics and a cam. The Glow device also features a downward-facing projector, which leads us to the second part of this setup: A 19-inch “projected space” that appears on an included mat that kids can interact with. If you have seen those touch-sensitive projected spaces used at museums and zoos, the principle is largely the same. The Glow can project all kinds of images onto the space, and kids can initiate activities, move things around, and generally interact with it in many ways. It’s a kid-friendly solution that avoids the risk of breaking expensive screens while still offering many of the benefits of a large tablet.
Glow is specifically designed for video chatting with other people, from teachers and classmates to friends and family, and must be parent-approved. Unlike Echos, the Glow is not an Alexa device and doesn’t use Alexa’s voice commands.
Alright, so the Glow is a touchscreen for video chatting, with interactions and a project space — but what can it actually do? Let’s take a look at some of the current highlight capabilities.
- Books: The Glow can access all the books available on Amazon Kids+ so you can read with your kids even when you’re not in the same place. The Amazon Kids+ library has thousands of titles in a variety of genres. The Glow device projects the book on the 19-inch mat, leaving plenty of room for visuals, word bubbles, and more.
- Games: There are tons of traditional games like chess, checkers, Go Fish, memory games, and more that kids can play with the Glow. You’ll also find a number of unique games from Amazon that mix education and fun, or some that provide pure amusement. The Glow doesn’t really support anything beyond kids games or anything more complex than you’d find in the Amazon Kids+ store, but some games do feature in-depth leveling systems and more.
- Drawing: While the Glow doesn’t come with a stylus or any similar tools, there are digital options to mimic pencils, crayons, paintbrushes, and more so kids can draw in whatever colors and styles they prefer. Users can also add digital stickers to the space for decoration.
- Familiar characters: A lot of these activities use proprietary characters that kids will likely recognize, including big names from Frozen, Toy Story, Barbie, Sesame Street, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Dora the Explorer. Interacting with these kid favorites can make it easier for some kids to get engaged with the activities.
- Scanning: The Glow also has an innovative way to scan physical objects and create a digital likeness of them. For example, a kid could scan a toy, then use the puzzle feature to break it into different parts and reassemble it on the projected space.
- Glow Bits: Glow Bits are kits that combine digital features on the Glow and unique physical pieces for more complex games or interactions. Bundled with the Glow is the Tangram Bits puzzle game. Kids and their Glow contacts can play together — kids use the physical shapes on their map, and their remote friends/family members use digital shapes, so they can solve the puzzle together.
As we mentioned, Glow can also offer video chat options for friends and family. Many of the activities we talked about, like playing games, scanning objects, or using Glow Bit kits, support interaction with other people via the touchscreen. Kids can play games with or against others, solve puzzles together, share art with others, and more. Again, kids can only call and interact with pre-approved contacts. Contacts do not need an Amazon Glow themselves to video chat, but they do need a compatible device, which includes Android and iOS tablets and smartphones — plus the free Glow app.
Controls and privacy
The Glow includes all the parental controls on the Amazon Kids+ platform. That includes controlling the content they can access in the kid-friendly store, as well as seeing a history of activities and who kids have been contacting on the Amazon Parent Dashboard. Parents are responsible for adding contacts for their kids. Anyone they interact with will need to have an Amazon account and sign in with the Glow app to participate.
The platform is also ad-free and separate from the greater internet (aka a “walled garden”). The cam on the Glow has a privacy shutter that you can close at any time, which also automatically disables the included microphones.
Pricing and availability
Currently, the Glow has limited availability with an early access price of $250. The full launch price will be $300. That includes the Glow, the mat for its projection, the Tangram Bits, and a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ (which is basically necessary for the Glow to work and costs $3 per month). There’s also a two-year warranty that can replace the Glow if it breaks.
If you are interested in getting a Glow early, you can visit this Amazon Glow page and choose Request an Invitation to begin.
Are there other Glow Bits?
The Tangram Bits puzzle game comes with the Glow. Parents will be able to purchase other Glow Bits as add-ons, although none are available quite yet.
Can you use the Glow to talk to people abroad?
Currently, you can only use the Glow and the companion app in the U.S.
What if I already have a subscription to Amazon Kids+?
When you activate Glow, your active subscription will be automatically replaced, and you’ll receive one free year of Amazon Kids+ from that time. When the year ends, you’ll need to continue to pay the $3 subscription fee.