In a press conference in New Delhi today, Google launched a new app – Bolo – aiming to bridge the learning gap in education. The app helps primary grade children improve their Hindi and English reading skills.
The beta version of Bolo, launched in India first, is optimized for native Hindi speakers, and uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology.
The app features a fun and helpful reading buddy that encourages, aids, explains, and corrects the child, as they read aloud. Children can also play interesting word games and earn in-app rewards and badges that makes reading become both fun and a daily habit.
Zohair Hyder, the engineering lead for Bolo, shared that reading aloud with someone giving 1:1 feedback helps improve reading skills. Many children in rural India don’t have this support. The app aims to bring a similar experience via a smartphone.
At the launch, Google cited the annual ASER 2018 report to share that children in rural India lag in learning and the lack of reading ability can significantly impact further education, and ultimately children’s ability to realize their full potential. Some of the primary reasons for this are limited access to quality material, under-resourced infrastructure, and barriers to learning outside the classroom.
According to Nitin Kashyap, Product Manager, Google India, Bolo is designed to encourage and engage kids so their love for reading grows and it becomes a daily habit. Google has been piloting Bolo with over 900 children in 200 villages in India. The company claims that the results are very encouraging, with 64% of children showing an improvement in reading proficiency in just 3 months.
Google is working with several non-profit partners who have extensive experience of working in this space to take Bolo to more children across the country. The personalized, speech-based reading-tutor app allows children to choose from a large variety of engaging stories – the initial catalogue from Storyweaver.org.in includes 50 stories in Hindi and 40 in English; with more being added soon.
The app is designed to work offline and available to download on the Google Play Store in India. All the reading material on the app is completely free. Google has shared that the company will look to expand the app to more languages and more markets across the globe, although no timeline was shared.