Technology making science easier to understand

The TutAR app allows teachers to explain basic science concepts by using augmented reality, with lessons becoming more fun

Technology making science easier to understand
The basic premise of TutAR is simple: the app allows for the display of 3D models in a realistic environment.

-By Anuj Bhatia

A trio in their late 20s wants to change how fundamental science concepts are taught in schools across India. Their solution is an app that uses augmented reality (AR) technology to explore basic concepts in a three-dimensional format, making learning fun. Primarily aimed at teachers, the TutAR app offers educators a new way to further students’ understanding of science and increase their interest in the subject.

“We are not trying to be an Edtech platform that replaces traditional classrooms,” says Shyam Pradeep Alil, co-founder and CTO of TutAR. “The idea behind the app was always to make learning interactive through the use of 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.

Both met through a technical platform called IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) where they started conducting workshops on AR and virtual reality (VR) for institutes and colleges across India. Later, Suvith S joined the team as CSO, handling the company’s expansion.

The app went live during the first wave of the pandemic when schools had to be shut down. Alil and his team saw the opportunity of having a platform/app through which teachers could create a great learning environment for students. The team brainstormed about using an emerging technology like virtual reality (VR) but eventually settled on augmented reality (AR) as it could be experienced through the web and smartphones, something that was hard to replicate for VR that requires expensive headsets and a lot of training.

The basic premise of TutAR is simple: the app allows for the display of 3D models in a realistic environment. Alil says 3D models in AR not only help students visualise complex information but also increase their motivation and interest in the subject. Think about a 3D model explaining how human eyes work to a Class 8 student. A teacher can explain the concept using a textbook or draw a model on the blackboard but both methods are more likely to prioritise facts over the actual process.

With 3D models, a teacher can zoom in and out and manipulate the model, offering a more natural way of explaining concepts of science.

The TutAR app, which is easy to use, is available on both smartphones (Android and iOS) and PCs (Mac and Windows). Teachers can use both the front and back cameras of the smartphone, with the phone screen serving as a touchpad. That way teachers point their cameras at whatever needs to be explained to students, while also drawing/doodling on their own screen. The students see these doodles or suggestions appear live on the screen. The teachers can also share their screen with students while explaining 3D visuals.

The TutAR app is currently being used by over 150 schools and 300+ teachers in 22 states in India. Alil sells the app as a service, through a subscription model, with an average charge of `50,000 per annum. The cost of the service varies depending on how many teachers want to use the app and the number of classes they want to take.

Alil believes that AR and VR have the potential to change the way industries operate in the future. The technologies are specially promising when it comes to the education sector. Planning to take the app global, he has  set his sights on the Middle East as the next market. The startup is also building the metaverse, where teachers and students can come together for a class. It will be ready in the next six months.

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