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Google was recently granted a patent which suggests that it could be planning to develop a voice search engine for young children “who may not yet know how to read.”

The patent titled “Gamifying Voice Search Experience for Children” gives Google exclusive rights to develop the concept which combines voice search with a graphical user interface (GUI). The patent suggests that this voice search experience could be developed for devices with a screen and use a combination of audio search prompts and on-screen buttons to “transform content searching into a game-like experience that teaches young users how to search for interesting content.”

This voice search experience would work by having an on-screen voice search indicator which children could select. Once selected, search prompt indicators would then appear on the screen and play audio search prompts back to the child when selected. Children could then respond to these audio search prompts by replying with their voice.

Google says that some of the criteria that could be used to determine search prompts include:

  • Receiving a users’ age
  • Receiving a users’ location
  • Receiving the search history of the users’ device
  • Receiving the calendar time of the search

In the patent, Google gives the example of one of these audio search prompts being “What is your favorite animal?” If the child gives a voice response, a search will be performed and present information about the animal on-screen. If the child doesn’t give a voice response, they will be able to select the on-screen search prompt indicators to receive further audio search prompts. If they don’t give a voice response or tap one of the on-screen search prompt indicators within a set amount of time (the patent suggests this would be 10-15 seconds), a search prompt indicator will be selected automatically to encourage the child to perform a search.

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Google adds that some examples of the criteria based search prompts (age, location, search history, calendar time) could include being presented with age-appropriate search prompts or being presented with “school-related” search prompts during the school year and “fun” search prompts during the summer.

The patent also says that these search prompts “may be constantly refined for a user as search histories are updated to provide insight into the user's content preference.”

When it comes to privacy, Google says that “users may be provided with an opportunity to control whether the content sharing platform collects user information” and “certain data may be treated in one or more ways before it is stored or used, so that personally identifiable information is removed.”

In a statement about this patent, Google said:

“We file patent applications on a variety of ideas. Some of those mature into real products, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.”

The news of this patent comes as Google is facing heavy scrutiny over children’s privacy. Last week, one of Google’s subsidiaries launched a smart diaper with Pamperswhich tracks soiled diapers, sleep patterns, and other highly sensitive baby information. Google also recently settled with the FTC over kids’ privacy violations on YouTube.

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