The current global situation with COVID-19 has paved the way for a surge in both the demand and supply of apps for young ones. Many of these take the form of games or videos that keep kids distracted while there are a few try to impart lessons as well. Google is unsurprisingly jumping in on that trend and, just as unsurprisingly, it is putting its favorite AI and machine learning features to work in helping kids get better at reading and speaking even while stuck at home.
The Read Along Android app is pretty much a combination of various Google technologies and experiments over the past years. It is, to some extent, the evolution of a similar experimental app it launched in India last year known as Bolo. On the surface, the way Read Along works is pretty simple, asking a kid to read out a story or piece of text out loud. Behind the scenes, of course, it showcases Google’s prowess in machine learning fields.
Read Along by Google specifically uses text to speech technologies to read text out loud but perhaps the more interesting part is speech recognition. Reading buddy Diya, a more personable representation of an AI assistant, is able to detect words that kids struggle with and help them overcome that hurdle in a game-like fashion.
As with anything involving kids and especially Google, there will be some concerns about privacy so Google directly addresses those questions. After the initial download of the app and stories, Read Along works completely offline with all the speech processing happening on the device itself. No data is ever sent to its servers, it promises, and it doesn’t even require any form of account to log into.
Read Along by Google is designed for kids ages five and older and supports nine languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindi. The app is only available on Android and still in early access so it might still change significantly or even disappear later on.