Google India Launched Bolo App as a Personalized Reading Tutor

IndraStra Global

Google India Launched Bolo App as a Personalized Reading Tutor

Image Attribute: Google Bolo's Screenshots / Source: Google Play

Image Attribute: Google Bolo's Screenshots / Source: Google Play

On March 6, 2019, Google India unveiled a new app 'Bolo' that aims to help children in primary school learn to read in Hindi and English by encouraging them to read aloud - just as they would naturally do - and giving them instant feedback - even when completely offline.

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 by saying says “Shabash” or very good 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 said.

“We all have our own personal experience and know that reading aloud with someone giving 1:1 feedback helps improve reading skills. Many children, especially those in rural India don’t have this support. With Bolo we wanted to bring a similar experience to anyone who needs it, via their smartphone,” Zohair Hyder, Engineering lead for Bolo said.

Bolo is now available on Google Play Store (in development mode i.e., beta version) in India for all smartphones running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and higher, he added. Google has partnered with Storyweaver.org.in for content, which includes 50 stories in Hindi and 40 in English. Further, the app works without any data and even when the phone is offline.

Google Bolo App

Citing the annual ASER 2018 report, Kashyap said, it was found that only half of the 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 realize 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 percent 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. According to the company's press release - four of Google's nonprofit partners are Pratham Education Foundation, Room to Read, Saajha and Kaivalya Education Foundation (a Piramal Initiative).

Kashyap said the company is also looking at expanding the app to other Indic languages like Bengali, soon.

To ensure the safety of the child, all personal information always stays on the device. The users are also not asked for details like email ID and gender for logging into the app.