How Alexa Says Goodnight Amazon Echo uses generative AI to create bedtime stories.

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Different screenshots of Create with Alexa feature displayed on a tablet

Too exhausted (or unimaginative) to tell your child a bedtime story? Amazon’s smart displays can spin bespoke tales on demand.

What’s new: A feature called Create with Alexa generates children’s stories complete with illustrations, music, and sound effects on the Amazon Echo Show device.

How it works: The screen presents a series of prompts that provide a setting (such as “space exploration” or “enchanted forest”), main character (such as an astronaut or an alien), principal color, and tone (such as “happy” or “mysterious”).

  • A language model trained on written stories produces five to 10 lines of text divided into five scenes.
  • For each scene, a  scene-generation model selects an appropriate background image from a library of human-created and AI-generated pictures. The model adds objects and characters, including facial expressions and gestures that match the text; for instance, a laughing pirate who waves her hands.
  • An audio generator produces music by melding a library of chords, harmonies, and rhythms.

Behind the news: Amazon is under pressure to revitalize its 10-year-old Echo line. The devices, which have been sold at a loss on the theory that they would spur purchases of other goods, lost $10 billion in 2022 alone, and the division responsible for the Alexa software faces steep layoffs.

Why it matters: AI models that generate text, images, video, and music are having a banner year. Alexa’s storytelling feature coordinates several generative models into a coherent whole. Whether it will spur sales is a tale for another time.

We’re thinking: Once upon a time, there was a boy in a blue shirt who dreamed of changing the world with AI. . . .


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