Kerala startup wants to leverage augmented reality to help teachers outside the classroom
A trio in their late twenties want to change the way fundamental science concepts are taught in schools across India. Their solution, an app that uses augmented reality (AR) technology as the basis for exploring basic science concepts in a three-dimensional way, making learning fun and less boring. Primarily aimed at teachers, the TutAR app offers educators a new way to develop students’ understanding of science through 3D models and improve education for the next generation.
“We are not trying to be an Edtech platform that replaces traditional classrooms,” said Shyam Pradeep Alil, co-founder and CTO of TutAR. indianexpress.com. “The idea behind the app has always been to make learning interactive through technology.”
TutAR was started by Thomson Tom from St Joseph College of Engineering and Technology, Pala and Shyam Pradeep Alil from Government Engineering College, Thrissur. The two met through a technical platform called IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) where they started running workshops on AR and VR for institutes and colleges across India. Later, Suvith S joined the team as the CSO responsible for the expansion of TutAR.
The app went live during the first wave of the pandemic when schools had to be closed. Alil and his team saw the opportunity to have a platform/or app through which teachers could create a great learning environment for students using interactive technology. Alil and the team considered using emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), but ultimately opted for Augmented Reality (AR), as the technology could be experienced via the web and smartphones, opening up a new world of possibilities and transforming a classroom into a digital education. playground, something that was difficult to replicate with virtual reality that required expensive headsets and a lot of training.
The basic principle of TutAR is simple: the application allows the display of 3D models in a realistic environment. According to Alil, 3D models in AR not only help students visualize complex information, but also increase their motivation and interest in the subject. Think of a 3D model explaining how human eyes work to a grade 8 student. A teacher can explain the concept using a textbook or draw a model on the board, but both methods are more likely to be prioritized to the facts rather than the actual process. With 3D models, a teacher can zoom in and out and manipulate the model, providing a more natural way to understand science concepts.
Instead of replacing the traditional teaching method, TutAR offers teachers a new way to explain concepts through 3D models in AR.
The TutAR application is available on smartphones (Android and iOS) and PCs (Mac and Windows). Teachers can use the smartphone’s front and rear cameras, with the phone’s screen acting as a touchpad. This way, teachers point their rear/front cameras at whatever needs to be explained to students while drawing/doodling on their own screen as they speak. Students see these doodles or suggestions live, appearing on the screen, which in a way is a better way to understand complex scientific concepts. The app is easy to use and there is no learning curve. Teachers can choose to share their screens with students while explaining 3D visuals to help them teach difficult science topics to students.
After loading a 3D model, it is displayed in real space. The AR recognizes surfaces such as tables or floors, so the model can be placed on a surface. But on PC and Mac, Alil’s team has developed a smart AR feature called On-Screen AR. The app has over 50,000 downloads on Android and another 20,000 downloads on Windows and Mac platforms.
Alil’s team consists of 3D model developers and subject matter experts who select important topics aligned with the school curriculum and based on which they create the structure and then 3D models are developed. Currently, the application offers more than 5000 interactive 3D models. Every month TutAR app is updated with new 3D models. “We’re constantly taking feedback from teachers and making changes to the app,” he says.
The TutAR app is currently used by over 150 schools and over 300 teachers across 22 Indian states. Alil sells the TutAR app as a service, through a subscription model with an average cost of Rs 50,000 per year. The cost of the service varies depending on the number of teachers wishing to use the application and the number of lessons they wish to take. Even some government schools in Kerala have started using the platform. smartphone camera).
TutAR app can be tested by anyone and comes with a free collection of 3D models. Alil plans to add more advanced features to the app, including real-time hand tracking which is now in beta.
Alil understands that Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) can hold huge potential for how industries operate in the future, especially the education segment. Keeping the potential of AR/VR and their impact on average users through various applications, Alil and his team have set up AR/VR labs at Panangad Higher Secondary School, Thrissur, Kerala and Amal Jyothi College of Engineering, Kanjirapilly. Alil also planned to make the TutAR app global with eyes on the Middle East as the next potential target market.
The young startup is also building the metaverse, where teachers and students come together and take class. It will be ready within the next six months.