Rivet, a brand-new app from Google’s in-house incubator, wants to aid children struggling to read. The app hails from venue 120 — Google’s workshop for experimental projects — and includes more than 2,000 free books for kids, as well as an in-app assistant that can aid kids when they get stuck on a word by path of advanced speech technology.
For instance, if the child is having difficulties with a word, they can touch it to hear it pronounced or they can say it themselves out loud to be shown in the app which parts were said correctly and which need work.
There are also definitions and translations for more than 25 languages included in the app, in order to aid kids — and especially non-native speakers — to good learn reading.
For younger readers, there’s a follow-along method where the app will read the stories aloud with the words highlighted so the child can match up the words and sounds. When kids grow beyond needing this feature, parents can opt to disable follow-along method so the kids have to read for themselves.
While there are a number of e-book reading apps aimed at kids on the marketplace today, Rivet is intriguing for its ability to leverage advances in voice technology and speech processing.
Starting today on robot and (soon) iOS, Rivet will be able to offer real-time aid to kids when they touch the microphone button and read the page aloud. If the child hits a word and starts to struggle, the assistant will proactively leap in and offer assist. This is similar to how parents aid children to read — as the child reaches a word they don’t know or can’t say, the parent typically corrects them.
Rivet says all the speech processing takes place on the machine to defend children’s privacy and its app is COPPA-compliant.
When the child completes a page, they can see which words they read correctly, and which they still need to work on. The app also doles out awards by path of points and badges, and personalizes the experience using avatars, themes and books customized to the child’s interests and reading stage.
Other surprises and games keep kids engaged with the app and continuing to read.
According to Rivet’s head of Tech and Product, Ben Turtel, the group wanted to work on reading because it’s a fundamental skill — and one that needs to be mastered to learn just about everything else.
“Struggling readers,” he says, “are unlikely to capture up and four times less likely to graduate from high school. Unfortunately, 64% of fourth-grade students in the United States perform below the proficient stage in reading,” Turtel explains.
Rivet is not the first app from Google aimed at tackling reading. An app named
Bolo offers a similar feature set, but is aimed at kids in India.
While Bolo was not a venue 120 project, others from the incubator have focused on education, like learn-to-code app Grasshopper, or used speech processing technology, like customer service phone system CallJoy.
Rivet was previously spotted in the wild during beta trials this year, but is now publicly available and a free download on both Google Play and the Apple App Store across 11 countries, including the U.S.