Google is Folding Popular Reading Tutor App Rivet into Google Assistant
Google is integrating digital reading tutor Rivet into Google Assistant, ending its independent existence on October 15. The transition from online and mobile app comes two years after Rivet debuted as part of Area 120, Google’s experimental branch. The inclusion of Rivet in Google Assistant is a testament to its popularity, suggesting Google wants to augment the voice assistant’s growing educational features right as demand for home education tech is soaring due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
As seen in the video above, Rivet offers an animated reading aid aimed at children six and older. It offers 3,500 free books in English and Spanish sorted by difficulty and chosen to match a child’s reading proficiency. Rivet takes turns reading the text with the child, teaching new words with dictionary pop-ups and even correcting pronunciation if the device’s microphone is enabled. Google also partnered with schools and teachers to integrate Rivet into some of their teaching plans. Originally just a web app, Rivet added iOS, Android, and Amazon tablet variations starting in 2019. Since then, Rivet has been downloaded more than 10 million times on Android, earning a 4.4 star rating from about 40,000 reviews. Apple and Amazon don’t have download numbers but Rivet’s 3,200 iOS reviews average 4.8 stars, with a similarly high rating on Amazon, albeit from far fewer reviews.
With the transition, Rivet will be available only on Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max smart displays, although the company didn’t go into detail about any changes that will be made as part of the changeover. All of the existing Rivet data will be deleted, but Google said some of the books will be part of the new Rivet, while others will be available for free on Android tablets in the Google Kids Space mode, and ithe distribution rights for the YouTube books will go back the YouTube partners behind their creation.
Google wants Google Assistant to be where people turn for help in as many activities as possible. Since the school closures earlier this year, voice assistant-based educational tools are attracting more interest and Google has responded with several new products and features. In May, the company rolled out an educational app for Android called Read Along that came with a kid-focused voice assistant named Diya. Read Along was the result of a quick global expansion of Bolo, a similar tool Google was experimenting with in India using existing voice technology. Read Along also works by taking turns reading stories with a child, but presumably, Rivet will improve its capabilities.
Google has plenty of voice app education competition, however. Amazon announced at its event last week a new Alexa feature for kids called Reading Sidekick, Revealed in tandem with the Panda and Tiger-themed Echo Dot Kids Edition smart speakers, Reading Sidekick sets Alexa up as a reading tutor taking turns reading a book with a child. Reading Sidekick also goes with the new Amazon Kids and Amazon Kids+ service, the dual levels of the recently renamed Freetime. On a smaller scale, San Francisco-based virtual English tutor developer MyBuddy.ai closed a $1 million seed funding round in April. Irish voice tech startup SoapBox Labs has been particularly busy partnering with companies to bring its unique, child-focused voice recognition tech to new platforms, including a children’s literacy test. That’s important since SoapBox is built on the fact that standard voice assistants sometimes struggle to understand what children are saying. SoapBox Labs and its child-specific voice recognition platform help solve that problem, but in the long-run, Google may need to make some more tweaks to its approach to distance education if it wants to be the go-to source for parents trying to teach a child to read.