PlaBook, an education technology company based in Kansas City, recently announced that it has raised $100,000 in funding from Google.
Founded by Philip Hickman, PlaBook is an innovative reading technology that uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing and speech recognition to help children learn to read. The startup, a Techstars 2021-backed company, is the first AI-powered avatar-reading digital assistant. The platform automates reading assessments such as oral reading fluency, dyslexia screening, running logs, comprehension and phonemic awareness.
Plabook provides high-quality reading practice that encourages development, reading quizzes monitor comprehension, while literacy and vocabulary quizzes extend student learning and build skill mastery. It also offers AI-powered dashboards that generate smart insights for teachers, parents and students.
Commenting on the funding, Plabook founder, Philip HickmanHe said:
“We were happy to receive the investment from Google. It’s a stamp of approval to really validate our tool. We’ve won other awards like (being a semi-finalist at the GSV Cup). But this was validation. This was Google.”
Hickman added further about the company, saying:
“So it’s been a little bit harder to develop our own technology around that because kids’ voices change so quickly. One minute, they’re sizzling. One minute, they drop and get deep and crackle. Then the next minute, they have front teeth, and the next second they don’t have front teeth. teeth. Without such technology, the reading assessment is done by having the child read a passage and answer some multiple-choice questions. Or younger children may be asked to do tasks like, for example, dragging and dropping a picture of an apple under the letter A.”
“For the first time, we can not only hear a child read, (but) use AI to analyze their readings and tell you the exact level of reading error, accuracy, oral reading ability – all those things – comprehension. But we” can also hear everything to the phonemic level — we hold some patents on that — to the point where we can hear the unit of speech itself. … We can give them a student profile recommendation engine so it can tell you exactly what barriers the child has,” he noted.
Plabook has a mission to help children develop a love for learning so they can build a brighter future.
According to Hickman, when creating its products, the company did not use a third-party tool, but developed its own speech engine. Unlike Google’s speech engine, which uses a dataset of adults, PlaBook uses a dataset of children’s speech, plus it takes into account accents and regional dialects. The technology is designed to work with teachers and as an informational assessment that still works in a noisy classroom environment.
Plabook is now being used in the Florissant and Ferguson, Missouri, school districts in the St. Louis area. Louis, and in schools in Texas, Mississippi, Michigan and New York. The company is also exploring partnerships with several schools in the Kansas City area.
Last year in October, Plabook raised $50,000 in funding from Arch Grants. Before that, the company raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-Seed round from Arch Grants and Techstars Kansas City Accelerator in June of the same year.
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