Google is already dominating the smartphone, search, and online video market of India. Today it launched a learning app for primary school children in the country as part of an effort to cement its grip on the world’s fastest-growing internet market. This Android app, called Bolo, focuses to help young kids improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills in Hindi and English. Bolo is the Hindi word for “speak”. This app features a range of games and tasks, and it rewards kids as they progress.
Bolo is powered by Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology. It first asks kids to read sentences. This app then listens to the efforts and reviews them, and Diya, an animated voice assistant suggests pronunciation and vocabulary corrections wherever applicable. Bolo app comes preloaded with several stories. According to to Google, there are 90 stories in Hindi and English which are available at launch. Children can engage with the app at a pace they are comfortable with, and their progress can also be shared with their parents.
Bolo is specially optimized to work for Hindi-speaking users and functions even when there is no data connection. Nitin Kashyap, a project manager at Google, said at an event in New Delhi today, that the app does not serve ads and collects only “minimal” data like what kind of book a kid is reading and where they might be struggling. He also added that the data is not tied to a particular user. The user does not need to give even an email address to use the app.
This Bolo app will be released by Google in India first, with plans to bring it to other countries in the future. The company said it will also add support for more languages soon.
In recent years, literacy levels in India have been growing. Experts have cautioned that the overall quality of education needs improvement and innovation. According to a recently released study (PDF), about 50 percent of children in fifth grade can’t fully understand textbooks meant for second-grade students.
Google said that it has quietly piloted Bolo with 920 students in 200 villages in India late last year. It received “encouraging” feedback. While developing Bolo, Google worked closely with four nonprofit partners including, Pratham Education Foundation, Room to Read, Saajha, and the Kaivalya Education Foundation. A researcher who has worked on the project told that Google has started working on Bolo in late 2017.
By: Preeti Narula