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February 28, 2018Robyn Fisher
With a grand prize of $20,000, five bonus prizes ranging from $7,500 to $10,000, a $5,000 prize for each of the 20 finalists, and a limited-edition Echo Dot for each of the hundreds of eligible participants—thousands of developers registered for the Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids with their eyes on the prize. The competition was fierce. Developers representing 30 countries around the globe gave their blood, sweat, and tears to battle their way to the winner’s circle. Today, our adventure concludes. The time has come to announce the winners.
We recognize that this may have required a herculean effort for many of you. To be eligible, participants had to submit a stellar kid skill, a demo video, and the story of how they built it. For some of you, this was your very first Alexa skill. Great job! For others, you explored more advanced features like custom voices and sound effects, leaderboards, augmented reality, chat bots, and even tapping into NASA’s real-time orbital tracking data for the International Space Station. Some of you submitted Hollywood-quality demo videos. We applaud each and every one of you for investing your time, brainpower, and creativity in building voice experiences for kids.
The grand prize and four of the five bonus prize winners were determined by an interdisciplinary panel of judges from industry, non-profit, and academia.
“Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids is the developers themselves. Moms, dads, college students, family teams, and other developers from all over the world showcased their creativity and innovation by building experiences to share with the Alexa community. Their ingenuity and enthusiasm is inspiring.”
Ashley Andersen Zantop, Official Judge of the Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids
Bonus Prize: Kid Favorite, Parent Approved ($7,500) – Animal Workout
The winner of this bonus prize was determined by a group of kids and parents who completed a survey to vote for their top three of the 20 finalist skills. Over half of those surveyed voted Animal Workout as one of their top three skills. In her demo video, developer Lesley Baker explains, “Sometimes, the kids just need something to do. Or you need the kids to have something to do. Welcome to the Alexa skill, Animal Workout, where kids become different animals while also getting exercise.” This skill is easy to follow. Kids enjoy skills that involve animals and get them to move around, while parents enjoy skills that enable their kids to have a good time burning off some steam.
Bonus Prize: Best Skill Designed for Echo Show ($7,500) – Panda Rescue
In this Alexa skill developed by Oscar Merry and Jess Williams, children play the character of a young volunteer who’s been accepted into Panda Wilderness School, which just rescued an orphaned baby panda. The aim of the game is to care for the panda so it can be released back into the wild. With a voice-only Echo device, you learn that baby pandas are pink when they’re very young. But with an Echo Show, you get to see what a panda looks like when it’s pink, and see it mature over time. You can also see these images in their submission. This skill includes unique custom voices, with a child narrator. It even comes with a leaderboard.
Bonus Prize: Best Educational Skill ($7,500) – Lemonade Stand
This skill, developed by Mark Einhorn, pays homage to the 1970s computer game by the same name, and simulates running a small business whereby choices made determine its success or failure. The player is given a weather report, and starts off with $5. They’re asked how much they’d like to spend on lemonade and advertising, and the price they’d like to charge. The player then makes or loses money depending on the weather, the choices they've made, and behind-the-scenes random supply/demand simulation factors that keep the game interesting. The game is simple to grasp, yet challenging and fun. The judges had fun playing this skill, and some got pretty serious about making a profit. When the skill experienced a hiccup, even the “pardon my circuits” response was clever. Mark’s demo video does a great job highlighting the skill’s numerous features
Bonus Prize: Best Skill by High School Students ($10,000) – Science Buddy
This skill asks some pretty tough questions. “Who is considered the originator of alternating current in electricity transmission systems? A. Niels Bohr, B. Thomas Edison, C. Nikola Tesla” The judges commended the use of multiple choice instead of asking an open-ended question. You can easily ask Alexa for help, and to repeat the question. “Science Buddy was inspired by competitions like the National Science Bowl that help foster an interest of science in children. However, since the National Science Bowl uses difficult, middle- to high-school level questions, Science Buddy attempts to use easier questions that might appeal to kids in elementary school, such as third, fourth, or fifth grade,” states developer Neil Chowdhury in his submission. I don’t know about those third graders, but I was pretty proud of myself when I got a question right! Neil also states, “With the power of Echo Buttons, Science Buddy could also become a multiplayer game.” I’m going to need a lot of practice.
Bonus Prize: Best Skill by University Students ($10,000) – Music Bop
“Quick, everybody, march into the spaceship!” In this high energy skill, kids can participate in two different adventures: space and under the sea. UK developer Ilarna Nche even produced her own custom music for it. Her submission reads: “The idea behind music bop came about when I noticed my young cousins fixated on their tablets. My childhood did not consist of the technology that they have today and I felt that I needed to make something that would enable them to have a fun experience which would not require them to look at screens.” The music is catchy (I love 80s synth), and by putting the planets with music — “Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars…” — it makes them easier to remember.
Grand Prize Winner ($20,000) – Kids Court
“I decided to address one of the most agonizing parts of family life - kids fighting - and created Judge Lexy, which is an objective, quirky judge that helps kids settle their battles. Welcome to Kids Court.” Created by Adva Levin, Kids Court is a creative skill, full of imagination. The Honorable Judge Lexy is practically a peacemaker, because even if siblings come to court with a serious concern, they’re likely to go away smiling. The trial process and even Judge Lexy’s punishments are fun. The skill has a brief but solid set-up so you know what to expect. It uses vocabulary like “plaintiff” and “defendant,” but helps children understand these words within the context of the game. If you don’t have your own case to settle, you can hear prior court cases and guess who won. You can even file for an appeal. Check out Adva’s teaser-style demo video.
The Alexa Developer Rewards program is expanding to include kid skills! Now, developers worldwide have even more ways to earn money for engaging skills customers love. Learn more.
What’s the next Alexa Skills Challenge? We’re glad you asked. Get ready for Alexa Skills Challenge: Life Hacks. A life hack refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life. This can range from getting a better night’s sleep, to tricks for saving money, to cultivating a healthier mindset through daily practice, to MacGyver-style expedient solutions to everyday problems, and more. Perhaps your skill will be one that customers use every day and simply can’t live without. Details coming soon. Meanwhile, register for our upcoming webinar: Tips for Building Voice-First Life Hacks with Alexa.