Microsoft announces general availability of Immersive Reader for remote learners

Updated features aim to engage learners and make content more easily accessible

As schools nationwide gear up for the new school year, Microsoft has announced the general availability of Immersive Reader, an Azure Cognitive Service on the Azure AI platform.

Immersive Reader has become a critical tool for distance learning throughout the coronavirus pandemic. According to Microsoft, more than 23 million people use Immersive Reader every month. Between February and May of this year, there was a 560% increase in Immersive Reader usage. With the new school year already here for some and on the horizon for others, Microsoft expects to see continued momentum for the remote-learning tool.

With the general availability of Immersive Reader, Microsoft has updated it to support pre-translating content and automatically reading a page aloud. Microsoft is adding 15 new Neural Text-to-Speech voices and five new languages to Immersive Reader too, including Odia, Kurdish (Northern), Kurdish (Central), Pashto and Dari.

To make content more easily accessible to learners, Microsoft has partnered with Code.org and SAFARI Montage to integrate Immersive Reader into each respective platform. 

For Giovanni Benincasa, UX manager of the department of curriculum, instruction and digital learning for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Immersive Reader has become crucial to supporting CPS students and families.

“During remote learning, particularly for our younger learners, student learning is often supported by parents, guardians, or other caregivers,” said Benincasa.

“Since Immersive Reader can be used to translate the student-facing instructions in our digital curriculum, families can support student learning in over 80 languages, making digital learning far more equitable and accessible than ever before!” Benincasa added.

To further engage students, Microsoft is also bringing audiobooks to life by fine-tuning audio characteristics like voice style, rate, pitch and pronunciation to fit their scenarios. 

Additionally, features like Text to Speech and Transcribe in Word will automatically transcribe conversations for more seamless note taking.

Immersive Reader was launched in January 2016 and is built into Microsoft Word, OneNote, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, the Edge Browser and other Microsoft programs. It’s also available as an Azure Cognitive Service and can be integrated into third-party applications or sites.

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