Amazon Glow projector review: an innovative, interactive video calling device

Amazon’s newest try to entertain your youngsters is an progressive effort that mixes an interactive projector with Amazon Youngsters Plus’ glorious catalog of child-friendly content material. What it’s not is an Alexa device, regardless of having 4 microphones inbuilt and sharing a reputation with the Echo lamp for youths. Fairly than being part of Amazon’s rising, open sensible dwelling ecosystem, the $300 Amazon Glow is an costly, manicured walled backyard to your youngsters.

A video calling / interactive gaming device particularly designed to make it simpler for kids to speak with family and friends remotely, the Amazon Glow is trying to make these slightly compelled interactions extra pure, participating, and enjoyable.

The place Fb’s Portal Go tries to unravel the issue of wriggly, distractible youngsters by making a transportable device that allows you to convey the dialog to the place they’re, Amazon tries to maintain your child smitten by Grandma through a stationary tabletop projector. A 19.2-inch projected play space encourages extra lively play, letting grandparent, aunt, uncle, or second cousin not simply watch your baby draw, paint, or play video games however be part of within the enjoyable — albeit in a barely terrifying, disembodied head format.

Verge Rating

6.5 out of 10

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Good Stuff

  • Enjoyable, intuitive interface 
  • Revolutionary touchscreen projection tech 
  • Retains youngsters engaged on video calls
  • Video games get tougher as you get higher
  • Free alternative if it breaks
  • Good privateness / parental controls

Dangerous Stuff

  • Gradual and buggy
  • No Bluetooth headset assist
  • Amazon Youngsters Plus subscription and pill required
  • Want a big house to make use of it
  • Everybody has to have an Amazon account
  • Video high quality is inconsistent

Sadly, coming with an solely new {hardware} platform makes the Glow too costly, and its limitations imply it’s not prone to change a pill as your baby’s tech toy of selection. I’d additionally warning anybody contemplating investing on this as a vacation present that Glow is a part of Amazon’s Day1 Editions program, which may imply the corporate remains to be determining if it needs to decide to this product. You can also’t simply go and purchase this; you must request an invitation, though you do get it on the barely discounted worth of $249 to your bother.

Including to the preliminary outlay is an ongoing month-to-month content material subscription (beginning at $2.99 a month however included for the primary yr) and the necessity for whoever your baby is calling to have a pill for the most effective expertise. (It additionally doesn’t at present work with Fireplace tablets, which will be had fairly low-cost, however Amazon says compatibility is coming quickly.)

Nonetheless, Amazon does supply a two-year assure and free alternative if it breaks — which is an effective factor as this almost took a nostril dive off our kitchen counter a number of instances. Additionally, there aren’t any advertisements wherever to be discovered within the Glow, which is a refreshing change for an Amazon device.

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My 10-year-old chatting together with her grandma whereas they each draw within the Glow’s artwork program. The 8-inch portrait display screen that shows the caller’s head is a bit awkward.

At simply over 14 inches tall, the Glow is a towering device resembling a squared-off Echo speaker with an eight-inch touchscreen on the entrance to indicate the distant caller. A 720p digicam sits above the display screen to seize the kid and their actions, and a 10-watt speaker sits beneath it.

Two-way audio is enabled by 4 microphones above the protruding hunk of plastic that homes a projector. This beams a 19.2-inch touch-sensitive projection display screen onto a specifically designed white mat the place IR sensors and a second digicam allow interplay. Additionally included are seven tangram puzzle items, which you’ll scan into particular puzzles and play with each digitally and bodily. All of this takes up a big quantity of house, nevertheless, and it may be difficult to search out a great spot for it; plus, the device just isn’t very transportable.

The Glow is powered by a brief, detachable energy wire, and there’s a bodily privateness shutter that cuts off video and microphones, plus an influence button and quantity up and down button alongside the aspect. It’s designed for youths ages three to 9 to talk and play with distant household and associates, and it takes benefit of Amazon’s robust parental management options (so, there’s no fear that your baby goes to get lost down an web rabbit gap, and there’s no web-browser within the Glow).

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The projector sits above a 720p digicam that captures what the kid is doing and sends it to their digital playmate. A bodily shutter will be engaged at any time.

The kid makes use of the hands-free Glow device, and the distant consumer performs on a pill (iPad or Android). You may’t at present play Glow to Glow, and whereas there are some video games you’ll be able to play solo or aspect by aspect, the idea right here is resolutely about interacting with somebody who lives elsewhere, not about including one other private display screen into your private home. In actuality, this implies if you wish to play on the Glow together with your baby whilst you’re at dwelling, you’ll have to sit down in one other room with a pill. It looks like somebody didn’t actually assume that by.

Not like most video-calling gadgets, that is designed to supply two barely totally different experiences for the contributors. Whereas every participant sees the identical interface that consists of digital bookshelves from which you choose video games, puzzles, books, and actions, and every can management that interface, the grownup will get extra prompts and controls than the kid.

It feels particularly designed for the Glow consumer to be a tech-savvy baby who can instinctively management issues with contact and would in any other case get bored and distracted by speaking to a 2D face on a display screen. The pill consumer designation appears to be an older one who requires extra text-based prompts and steerage when grappling with this new-fangled know-how.

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The pill interface within the Glow app exhibits you an inset video of the kid, and the identical gameplay display screen however out of your perspective. If you happen to faucet on the caller you’ll be able to view your self and them however not the gameplay.

Whereas I get the place Amazon is coming from right here, this stereotyping feels uncomfortable. And feeds into my chief criticism with the Glow: it’s too tightly managed. I’m not speaking about privateness or parental controls, these are all current and proper. I imply the gameplay. After an hour or so of testing it with my 10-year-old daughter and her 74-year-old grandmother, we bumped into a number of restrictions.

For instance, a sport of chess (which was extremely enjoyable and cleverly executed) refused to let me win. It insisted the sport was a draw, though I had completely checkmated my child. It was like being informed by a trainer that you simply’re not allowed to do this till you’re sufficiently old to deal with it. Additionally, whilst you can obtain books from the Youngsters Plus catalog, solely image books and graphic novels work, not chapter books.

I used to be additionally flummoxed to search out out that regardless of the device having Bluetooth, you can’t pair Bluetooth headsets to the Glow. “[That] just isn’t attainable with Glow as a part of the enjoyable for fogeys is to have the ability to hear their baby talking with a distant member of the family or good friend, identical to a playdate in particular person, and becoming a member of the dialog in the event that they select,” Amazon PR informed me in an e-mail. Thanks, however I don’t should be informed find out how to have enjoyable with my youngsters.

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The artwork display screen lets a toddler’s creativity roam, however watch out for the vacuum cleaner icon, which both participant can use to erase your work in an prompt.

A superb use case for this device for work-from-home mother and father is to pop their baby on a name with a good friend or member of the family if they should get some work completed. It’s a lot much less guilt-inducing than sticking on one other Peppa Pig marathon to get by your weekly group assembly. However for that to work in a small condominium, for instance, headphones in your baby can be very useful.

Whereas my youngsters aren’t the goal age vary right here (a minimum of not but — Amazon informed me it’s planning to convey extra content material tailor-made towards older youngsters), my 10-year-old daughter actually loved lots of the video games. Her favourite function by far was the interactive artwork space, the place you’ll be able to let your creativity roam free from a lot of the device’s restraints and even scan real-life objects into your masterpieces.

An illustration of how the scanning function works so as to add on a regular basis objects into your artwork initiatives on the Amazon Glow. The outcomes are effective however the colours are fairly gray.

Establishing the Glow is simple, but it surely needs to be completed by an grownup — it’s not a toy in itself. Plug it in, flip it on, scan the QR code displayed on the display screen to obtain the Glow app. You need to use a cellphone or pill however the interactive expertise is a lot better on a pill. The app connects to the Glow over Bluetooth and allows a connection to your Wi-Fi community (2.4GHz or 5GHz).

Subsequent, you register together with your Amazon account (one is required to make use of the Glow and the companion app) and choose your profile and add your youngsters. If you have already got an Amazon Youngsters account, they may present up, or you’ll be able to create profiles for them. You may then add family and friends and select which baby they’ll work together with (when you have a couple of). As a pleasant contact, you’ll be able to change the member of the family’s title to at least one the kid makes use of for them. At present, the Glow app is barely accessible to obtain within the US, so that you gained’t have the ability to chat with family and friends who reside abroad.

My chief criticism with the Glow is it’s too tightly managed

Whenever you add a contact, a obtain hyperlink for the Glow app is distributed to them. On the opposite finish, it will get a bit extra sophisticated. Grandma or Grandpa has to register to their Amazon account (or join one), add a cellular quantity, obtain a textual content message affirmation code, and enter it within the app to allow Alexa calling. It’s additionally by no means made clear that it’s finest to do that on a pill, not a cellphone.

As soon as arrange, the kid can name a contact by tapping on their avatar on the touchscreen, and the decision is available in on the pill like an Alexa name on an Echo sensible show (though this isn’t an Alexa device). When you reply it, each contributors can see and management the sport house and see one another. I just like the interface as a result of neither particular person sees themselves — you solely see your playmate and the video games, which helps rather a lot in limiting distractions. Though, this did usually imply the grandparent wasn’t correctly within the body.

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Chess is among the few video games you’ll be able to play aspect by aspect (i.e. with out being in a name) and was a favourite throughout our testing.

The Glow has an spectacular quantity of content material at launch, leaning closely on the Amazon Youngsters Plus’ books library (there isn’t a video wherever to be discovered, which is an effective factor) and introducing a number of solely new video games and puzzles. A few of our favorites had been Bubble Sport (the place you’re employed towards the clock and your opponent to burst bubbles holding your designated letter), Paddle Battle (a variant of the Pong arcade sport), and card video games Loopy 8s, Go Fish, and Slapjack.

However it was chess that took over most of our testing time. I’d been attempting to get my daughter into chess for years, and she or he’s at all times resisted. However right here, with an prompt setup and hints on find out how to play, she was rapidly captivated. She additionally beloved that you could possibly play in several worlds (with the items dressed up in accordance with the theme) and that every piece was animated. Whenever you transfer a bit right into a harmful zone, it begins shaking and looking out scared. Whenever you transfer one to a great spot, it appears to be like smug. Enjoyable and academic.

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The opposite particular person within the name makes use of the Glow app on an iPad (iOS14 or larger) or Android (OS 8 or larger) pill to work together with the kid utilizing the Glow.

Maybe the most effective function of Glow total is that the video games be taught your competency as you play, beginning out simple however rapidly escalating in problem as you do effectively, serving to hold the kid engaged. Every exercise additionally begins with loads of hints and prompts to make it clear whose flip it’s and what you have to be doing, taking lots of the tiring rationalization out of educating a toddler (or grandparent) a brand new sport. Lots of these do require the kid have the ability to learn, although, so for youthful youngsters the image books from Disney, Mattel, and others are one other spotlight of the device, with interactive contact factors for the kid and dialog hints on the grownup’s aspect.

Amazon Glow may be very promising however feels unfinished

The gameplay was primarily easy, however we did encounter a good quantity of freezing, sluggish loading, and glitches. Not stunning for a first-gen product that’s nonetheless within the testing phases, however irritating all the identical, inflicting my daughter to throw up her palms in annoyance and get lost throughout a sport of Paddle Battle. (Once more, this can be a beta product for which you’re paying a whole bunch of {dollars}.)

The device can also be barely underpowered, and regardless of not being required to provide high-end graphics, slightly extra juice may assist hold issues flowing extra easily. The video high quality on the built-in 1280 x 800 decision touchscreen was additionally usually extremely pixelated, and audio turned robotic and garbled a number of instances. This was doubtless resulting from a poor web connection on the opposite finish, however one thing to keep in mind.

The Amazon Glow may be very promising however feels unfinished, a bit tough across the edges, and too limiting. Nonetheless, I hope Amazon retains engaged on it because it has loads of potential as a youngsters’ leisure device in addition to for different purposes. Contact-enabled projection know-how makes a ton of sense within the dwelling if you don’t need screens all over the place. A small, voice-activated projection device tucked up beneath a kitchen cupboard that would undertaking in your kitchen counter or wall if you want a recipe or to see the feed out of your video doorbell may simply be the subsequent evolution of Amazon’s sensible dwelling efforts.

However for now, you’ll most likely need to go on paying to hitch this beta check and watch for Amazon to totally flesh this product out earlier than diving in.

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