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Amazon Glow: Alexa-free gadget helps kids and long-distance family play together

The interactive Glow offers a new way for loved ones to connect with kids across the miles.

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Amazon

At Amazon's Echo and Ring devices event Tuesday, the company announced the Amazon Glow, an interactive video-chat device focused on helping kids and loved ones play together via the internet. 

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The Amazon Glow works in two parts. On the child's end, an 8-inch display projects a 19-inch interactive gaming space onto a 22-inch, white silicone mat. The Amazon Glow is also equipped with a video screen that shows the remote adult on the other end of the video call. Children can call anyone in the preapproved list of contacts set up by the parent with its Amazon Parent dashboard. Parents and children can also disable the four microphones and close the camera shutter at any time. 

The remote friend or family member uses the free Glow app to interact with the child's mat. The app is currently optimized for tablets, but customers are also able to access it on iOS 14 and up devices. Android smartphone support is in the works. Two cameras on the Amazon Glow capture footage for the remote adult: one focuses on the child; the other points down at the mat. The cameras provide wide-angle, 720p video and the remote adult sees a picture-in-picture livestream. 

Read more: Amazon's smart products lead the market even as trust in the company lags

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Amazon

The Amazon Glow includes a wide range of entertainment and educational content. Games like checkers and go fish are built in, as well as puzzles, thousands of books and a free drawing app that can scan objects into the artwork and do fun things like create a jigsaw puzzle from your favorite toy by smashing it on the screen. 

The catalog comes from an included one-year subscription of Amazon Kids Plus. After the year is up, that subscription will kick in at $3 per month. Amazon also partnered with studios for branded experiences from Disney, Mattel, Sesame Street and Nickelodeon. Curated video content is available, but kids can only watch videos while they're calling an approved adult. 

The Amazon Glow will also come with accessories called GlowBits. One GlowBit kit will be available at launch and included for free, a Tangram puzzle game with physical pieces. A child can complete the puzzle and watch an animation come to life on the projection mat. More GlowBits will be sold separately after the Amazon Glow launches later this year.

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Amazon

Alexa is not built into the Amazon Glow, but Amazon representatives said they would continue to listen to customer feedback regarding the virtual assistant. Several Echo devices have kids' editions, including the Echo Dot and Echo Show 5. Alexa is onboard those devices in a limited, kid-friendly scope. If the Amazon Glow sounds familiar, that's because there's also a kids' smart lamp called the Echo Glow. It's still for sale, but not to be confused with this new Amazon Glow device. 

The Amazon Glow is launching in the US only in mid-October. No specific dates were available, but the device will cost $250 at introduction, going up to $300. Customers can request an invitation to the early-access Glow program starting today on Amazon's site

At Tuesday's event, Amazon also announced the Echo Show 15, a Disney voice assistant, new Smart Thermostat, the Halo View fitness tracker, the Astro and more.