Amazon’s Alexa has its detractors, who see the voice assistant as an eavesdropping annoyance raising privacy concerns. To the mind of entrepreneur Adva Levin, it’s a creative tool, with the promise of bringing families together through play

She started Pretzel Labs two years ago and has focused the Israel-based company on a goal of cutting childrens’ phone and computer time. The self-funded company has already found success with its products: Kids Court, in which an Alexa-voiced based judge settles fights between kids in a playful way, won the 2018 grand prize of $20,000 in the Amazon Alexa Skills Challenge. 

Levin, speaking earlier this week at the VOICE Summit in Newark, N.J., said she’s discussing potential collaborations with well-known brands in the children’s interactive games market. In an interview with Karma, she declined to identify these companies.

Numerous studies suggest potential damage such as depression from unchecked screen time, and groups around the world urge parents to reduce kids’ hours before screens. The World Health Organization has called for zero screen time for kids under two years and no more than one hour for children two to five.

Levin said Pretzel Labs’ games offers alternative to visual games by involving families. More than one person can play at a time.               

  • “We saw a very high demand, especially since a lot of parents are trying to reduce kids’ screen time and this is a new medium that they can use to play and learn,” Levin said. “When I got my first Alexa I realized it’s a magical creative medium and I immediately knew I wanted to make things in this space.”
  • Pretzel Labs has created 10 apps on Alexa, including Kids Court, Freeze Dancers, which instructs listeners through dance steps, and Garbage Hero, which asks them to dispose of different types of trash while teaching them about important historical figures. 
  • “We need to let people know that young children should not be in front of a screen for long periods,” Leigh Tooth, the lead author of the study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, said in an online interview. “There is emerging evidence that this could be detrimental to their development and growth.”
  • Karma Takeaway: Pretzel Labs see its products as a way to protect children from the harmful effects of too much screen time, while building family bonds.