If you're stuck at home trying to keep the kids entertained and educated, you've now got one more online resource to draw on – Google just launched a Read Along app for Android that helps kids over five with their reading.
The app has previously been launched in India under the name Bolo, but is now available much more widely, across 180 countries and in nine languages. It uses Google's AI smarts to analyze the words that kids are saying in response to what's on screen, giving them feedback along the way through a virtual character called Diya.
"Diya uses Google's text-to-speech and speech recognition technology to detect if a student is struggling or successfully reading the passage," explains Google engineer Zohair Hyder in a blog post.
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"She gives them positive and reinforcing feedback along the way, just as a parent or teacher would," says Hyder. "Children can also tap Diya at any time for help pronouncing a word or a sentence."
No ads or in-app purchases
Google says that the stories in Read Along are collected from all over the world, interspersed with games and rewards to keep young minds engaged. Through the use of profiles, the app can be set up to cater for multiple kids.
Read Along works offline too, after the initial download, and there are no in-app purchases for that extra peace of mind for parents (no one wants their children to buy a hundred ebooks online while their back is turned). There's no advertising either.
You don't need a Google account to use the app, while speech is analyzed on your device through the app, so nothing gets sent back to Google in that respect. New stories are going to be added on a regular basis, the developers are promising.
Add the app to the list of free stuff being given away by big tech firms and broadcasters – including Amazon and the BBC – to keep kids learning at home. We've collected a bunch of useful resources together in one place here.