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An image from a promotional video for the Bamboo Luminaries trivia app. Screenshot: Axios (via YouTube)

Bamboo Learning, a startup led by a former Amazon executive that primarily delivers educational content to Alexa-enabled smart speakers, on Monday comes to Google's rival ecosystem for the first time.

The big picture: Smart speakers offer opportunities for new categories of applications, but it remains difficult to make money in the market, which helps explain the relative dearth of startups focused on the space.

Details: Bamboo is bringing to Google Assistant its Bamboo Luminaries app, a trivia game that covers both prominent and lesser-known influential historical figures from fields ranging from literature and science to sports, film and social justice.

  • Bamboo's other titles, which include math, music and books apps, remain Amazon-only for now. Most of Bamboo's apps and content remain free.
  • Ian Freed, who once led Amazon's Kindle business, is CEO of the six-person company.
  • "Our goal is to build a large audience," Freed said. "We've made steady progress on that," he added, declining to give any usage numbers.

The company did say it has seen a marked increase in usage this year, as kids were sent home from school during the pandemic. Giving kids a laptop and Zoom can work out for older students, but it's not an option for working parents with kids in the early grades.

  • "It's the elementary school kids left without anything to be able to do independently" that Bamboo aims to help, says Irina Fine, Bamboo's co-founder and a 30-year veteran of elementary education curriculum work.
  • Young children — even pre-readers — can run smart speaker apps without needing a parent around, Fine said.

Go deeper

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.

46 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Lawmakers hide behind AG's investigation as Cuomo lingers

A billboard outside Albany, N.Y. Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is politically wounded but not yet dead, several state lawmakers tell Axios.

The state of play: Most are holding their fire and punting to state Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into sexual harassment allegations. They expect the inquiry to be credible and thorough — and buy Cuomo badly needed breathing room.