Rivet, a new app from Google’s in-house incubator, wants to help children struggling to read. The app hails from Area 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 help kids when they get stuck on a word by way of advanced speech technology.
For example, if the child is having difficulties with a word, they can tap 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 help kids — and especially non-native speakers — to better learn reading.
For younger readers, there’s a follow-along mode 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 mode so the kids have to read for themselves.
While there are a number of e-book reading apps aimed at kids on the market today, Rivet is interesting for its ability to leverage advances in voice technology and speech processing.
Starting today on Android and (soon) iOS, Rivet will be able to offer real-time help to kids when they tap the microphone button and read the page aloud. If the child hits a word and starts to struggle, the assistant will proactively jump in and offer support. This is similar to how parents help 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 device to protect 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 way of points and badges, and personalizes the experience using avatars, themes and books customized to the child’s interests and reading level.
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 team 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 catch 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 level in reading,” Turtel explains.
Rivet is not the first app from Google aimed at tackling reading. An app called Bolo offers a similar feature set, but is aimed at kids in India.
While Bolo was not an Area 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.