Tech giant Google on March 6 unveiled a new app ‘Bolo’ that aims to help children in primary school learn to read in Hindi and English.
The free app, which is being launched in India first, uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology. The app features an animated character ‘Diya’, who encourages children to read stories aloud and helps if the child is unable to pronounce a word. It also lauds the reader when he/she completes the reading.
“We have designed the app to work offline, so users need to just download the under 50MB app once and then they have access to close to 100 stories in Hindi and English that the children can read out loud and improve their reading skills,” Google India Product Manager Nitin Kashyap told news agency. Bolo will be available on Google Play Store in India for all smartphones running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and higher, he added.
Citing the annual ASER 2018 report, Kashyap said, it was found that only half of students enrolled in grade 5 in rural India can confidently read a grade 2 level textbook. “Lack of reading ability can significantly impact further education, and ultimately children’s ability to realise their full potential. Limited access to quality material, under-resourced infrastructure, and barriers to learning outside the classroom are some of the challenges that children often face,” he added.
Google piloted the ‘Bolo’ app in about 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh and the early results are very encouraging with 64% of children showing an improvement in reading proficiency in just three months, Kashyap said. “We are now actively working with a number of non-profit partners to take the app to more people across the country who could benefit from it,” he said.
Kashyap said the company is also looking at expanding the app to other Indic languages like Bengali, soon. To ensure safety of the child, all personal information always stays on device. The users are also not asked for details like email ID and gender for logging into the app.