Google expands its suite of applications designed for the Indian market with today’s launch a new language learning app for kids called Bolo. The app, which is aimed at elementary school students, uses technologies such as speech recognition and text-to-speech from Google to help children learn to read in Hindi and English.
Do this, Bolo offers a catalog of 50 stories in Hindi and 40 in English, from Storyweaver.org.in. The company has announced plans to partner with other organizations in the future to expand the selection of stories.
The app includes a reading buddy, “Diya”, who encourages and corrects the child when he reads aloud. While the children are reading, Diya can listen and respond with comments. (Google notes that all personal information remains on the device to protect children’s privacy.) Diya can also read the text to the child and explain the meaning of English words. As kids progress through the app, they will be presented with word games that will earn them in-app rewards and badges to motivate them.
The app works offline – a necessity in much of India – where internet access is not always available. Bolo can also be used by several children and will adapt to their own reading levels.
Google says it tested Bolo in 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh, India with help from a non-profit ASER Center. In testing, it was found that 64% of children who used the app show improved reading skills in three months.
To run the pilot, 920 children received the app and 600 were in a control group without the app, according to Google.
In addition to improving their skills, more students in the group with the app (39%) achieved the highest level of ASER reading assessment than those who did not (28%) , and parents also reported improvement in their children’s reading skills.
Illiteracy remains a problem in India. The country has one of the largest illiterate populations in the world, where only 74% are able to read, according to a study by the ASER Center few years ago. He then found that more than half of fifth-graders in rural public schools could not read second-graders in 2014. As of 2018, that figure had not changed much – again, only about half may. read in second year. , ASER now reports.
As Google today highlights its philanthropic efforts in the field of education, it should be noted that Google’s interest in helping improve India’s literacy measures is also benefiting its results. As the country continues to connect to become one of the largest internet markets in the world, literate users able to use Google’s products such as search, ads, Gmail and others are increasingly important to Google’s activities.
Already, Google has delivered a number of apps designed specifically for Indian internet users, such as user-friendly versions of YouTube, search, and other popular services, such as the Tez payment app (now renamed Google Pay), a service food delivery, neighborhood and communities networking app, blogging app and more.
Today, Bolo is launched across India as an open beta, while Google will continue to work with its nonprofit partners, including Pratham Educational Foundation, Reading room, Saajha and Kaivalya Education Foundation – an initiative of Piramal – to bring the app to more children.