AWS Startups Blog

Orbit brings smartphone augmented reality into the classroom

Guest post by Wajiha Habib, Co-Founder and CTO of Orbit

My co-founder and I are technology enthusiasts; we love creating small utility tools. Our dream had long been to work with augmented reality, but we hadn’t found a use case that would motivate us enough towards creation. It wasn’t until we got the chance to visit a friend’s school and were talking with young students that we realized schools often lack the necessary tools to convey even the most basic of concepts to students. For example, some students had crammed into their minds the theoretical structure of the heart, without having a clear understanding about how it actually functioned. In fact, we encountered students who were confused about concepts as simple as circles and spheres. This visit really intrigued us.

My co-founder, who’d previously been a voluntary primary school teacher, could relate to this problem. She had had trouble describing to students certain topics around scientific and natural phenomena, such as how an earthquake is created, in a way that engaged them. Digging deeper into the issue, we realized the problem is actually with the lack of teaching tools available in the classroom. Most of the tools available in classrooms today are two-dimensional in nature—whether it be books, whiteboards, or smartboards. Because of their two-dimensional nature, such tools can’t convey the three-dimensional world effectively to students, which leaves them confused and frustrated.

In order to bridge this gap between the classroom and real world, we came up with Orbit. Imagine you’re sitting in your classroom for a biology lesson on the respiratory system and instead of conventional books, we place a breathing human being right in front of you. You can remove its skin and are allowed to step inside the organs and see how the nose, larynx, heart, and lungs work together to help us breathe. Imagine how clear your understanding would be after learning this way. That’s what Orbit does.

Initially, we worked with our amazing technical and creative team to produce some basic functions of the human body, including the respiratory and digestive systems to test these in a few pilot schools. An important thing we learned during the pilot process was that schools are reluctant in buying any additional hardware, therefore requiring us to tailor our solution to run on consumer phones and tablets. Our initial observations showed increased levels of interest and engagement from students, with a reduction in teaching time of around one third for teachers and an improvement in grades among 80% of the students who took part in the pilot.

The results validated our approach and motivated us to move forward with more aggressive product development. We currently have 10 human biology systems available in our app, and any schools wanting to use this in their curriculum, can signup to Orbit through our web portal. We’re already working with 12 schools, and charge a monthly subscription fee based on the number of users and the monthly content requirements of each institution.

Currently, my co-founder and I are attending Startup Bootcamp’s accelerator program in Europe, which is helping us better understand the Ed-Tech landscape in Europe. As an early-stage startup, we’re still running some additional pilots in schools in Amsterdam and Barcelona at the moment and are encouraged by the positive response we’ve received so far. The idea is to run these pilots over the next 3 months as we expand our production capabilities with the help of a government grant of $230,000, which will be available to us at the start of June 2018. We’re also looking for funding to support our European sales and marketing activities. With these two funding streams lined-up, we’ll be in a position to launch Orbit across Europe by the end of 2018.

Fatih Mehtap

Fatih Mehtap

Fatih leads Startup Marketing for AWS in EMEA, responsible for accelerating engagement with startup hubs and communities across the region.