Latest Microsoft Garage project builds vocabulary with an Android app

Jonny Caldwell

Another Microsoft Garage project has made its way to Android users. Called Read My World, the app aims to teach adults with low literacy or still learning the English language to strengthen their vocabulary and improve their literacy skills.

The app works by allowing users to take pictures of objects which are then displayed in words, which can then be saved to help enhance their memory of these words though three different vocabulary games. The image processing component of the app is powered by Azure Cognitive Services APIs, which uses AI algorithms to allow apps like this one “to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret your user needs through natural methods of communication,” according to its website. Here are the app’s key features:

  • Take a photo to identify an object from a library of over 1500 vocabulary words
  • Take a photo to identify vocab words in documents or other written mediums
  • See the spelling and hear the phonetic pronunciation of identified vocab words
  • Save photos with corresponding identified word to a personal dictionary for later reference
  • Practice saved words with any of three vocabulary games

The app started out with a small team of interns, including the Design Intern for the app, Kit Weil. “Tackling literacy is such a huge brief; we spent a lot of time scoping that down to something we tackle during an internship,” she shared on the Microsoft Garage blog. The project’s Program Manager Intern, Kate Macdonald, further added that: “We were surprised to learn that adult literacy is a challenge everywhere, even in Canada. There are great programs for learning English, but someone might not have the time, funds, or access to a long and periodic classroom style experience.”

The team spoke to local nonprofit organizations and government agencies as part of their research to help adults better understand the English language. They learned that adults learning English needed a tool that could supplement their classroom training, and would be especially useful to those that are unable to attend do to finance issues or scheduling conflicts. Nicole Joyal, the project’s Software Developer Intern, explains:

“Originally, we were planning more of a lesson plan style approach, but through our research and discovery we realized a Swiss army knife might be more useful. We wound up building a tool that can help you throughout your day-to-day rather than something that teaches.”

Only selected organizations will be able to get a free trial of the Read My World app. Those wishing to take part of the trial and provide feedback can request an invitation by completing an online questionnaire.