Google Assistant now offers a feature for teaching kids some manners. With “Pretty Please,” Assistant will provide positive reinforcement when it hears “please” and “thank you” in voice commands. Amazon offers a similar feature, called “Magic Word,” for Alexa devices.
Both features arose from the idea that kids might be learning poor manners by bossing their virtual assistants around. But as Fast Company’s Mike Elgan argued earlier this year, teaching politeness toward machines might have unforeseen consequences. By treating Alexa and Google Assistant like humans, children might be forming bonds that could eventually inhibit their skepticism of these assistants and their makers. Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, recommends keeping these politeness features disabled.
Pretty Please is one of several Assistant features that Google is flipping on today or in the near future. Assistant now supports notes and lists, “read-along” stories from Disney, lyrics for Google Play Music songs, and two-way communication with Nest Hello doorbells, and calls to Santa. Later this year, users will be able to view and respond to one-way broadcast messages on phones, share photos from smart displays (such as the Google Home Hub), and create quick alarms on smart displays by swiping up from the home screen.