Unlocking visual discovery

Blippar’s vision is to turn the world into an interactive learning environment, explains Colum Elliott-Kelly

Q. AR has been around for some time, but is still relatively new to the UK education sector. In a nutshell, what new benefits does AR bring to the classroom?

A. The goal at Blippar is to turn the world into an interactive learning environment. We are aiming to transform not only classrooms, but also textbooks, lecture halls, museums, and workplaces. It’s really about allowing the physical world, which is still incredibly effective, to benefit from all the advances that have been made in digital education. We want educators and learners to look around them and start to see the physical world as a portal to another, digital layer of information, knowledge and understanding, unlocked through visual discovery and augmented reality.

Q. You launched Blippar for Education at Bett 2015, what’s the response been like so far?

A. We soft-launched at Bett in January 2015. From there, we expanded our pilot programs around the world, continued to form partnerships with some of the leading digital education companies, cultural organisations and publishers and launched our product development team in San Francisco. Most of our work with classroom educators has been through the pilot, which is in its fourth phase and now includes 30,000 classrooms worldwide. The pilot is crucial to our approach: we have constantly iterated our product and our services based on the feedback and insights generated by our educator community. That’s a core principle of the Blippar for Education strategy: we are building products from the ground up, tailored to and driven by educators themselves. 

ABOVE: Blippar soft-launched into the education sector at Bett 2015

Q. How can schools use Blippar to enhance the teaching and learning experience?

A. Teachers and educators use Blippar to provide students with rich learning experiences – which they truly enjoy, absorb and retain. You choose the trigger image or ‘marker’, design the ‘blipp’ experience, and select the content you want the student to see once they point the Blippar app at the marker.

Alongside that, in direct response to what we heard from our community, we are building an Educator Dashboard so that teachers can monitor, assess and improve how students are using Blippar in the classroom. This will be fully integrated into other student information systems and we are focused on creating a seamless and efficient experience for the teacher. Our third product is the Educator Community, which is a platform which allows the teacher to share content with other teachers, collaborate on interactive projects within the classroom or across the world, and support one another by being active community participants.

From the administrator or management level, we’ve also built a back-end tool which allows us to create as many teacher accounts as necessary scalable and efficiently using just a list of email addresses. We’ve spent a lot of time making the whole process of getting involved in this incredible technology as hassle-free as possible! 

Q. Where can AR technology go from here, what’s the next step, and how will it develop as an educational tool? 

A. Blippar has already announced the next step in our growth, and we can’t wait to roll it out fully. We call it ‘visual discovery’, and it’s the most exciting example of where AR will go next. Visual discovery will become a universal behaviour, like using a search engine or sending a text. Imagine pointing your phone at anything in the world and learning more about it. Our vision, at its core, is to turn the world into an interactive learning environment. The physical world becomes a portal to personalised, relevant digital learning content, from simple explanations to language applications to complex visualisations which add so much to our understanding of a certain subject. We want people to look around their classrooms, their workplaces, their homes, their neighbourhoods, and to see them as digital learning channels; once we layer in all the advantages that digital learning channels also bring, such as personalised learning, collaboration, up-to-date content or gamification, the educational opportunities are pretty breathtaking.

W: blippar.com