Touchable Universe Project Stage 2: to develop Platform to aid building haptic learning programmes

In April last year our Touchable Universe Consortium completed a six months feasibility project funded by Innovate UK to explore the potential of haptic technology to improve learning outcomes. 6 months later we secured funding again from InnovateUK to take forward the development of Anarkik3D’s A-Frame platform to extend its capability as a development tool for application developers. This will enable embedding the sensation of touch into their products by combining haptic hardware with other software and hardware. What haptic technology does is to make the virtual universe touchable by enabling people to touch and feel digital information, and to interact and manipulate it in a 3 dimensional context via the physical effect of force feedback.

Teacher Alix experiencing 3D haptics
Teacher Alix experiencing 3D haptics

Quote from Alix, a teacher at Windsor Park Middle School, Uttoxeter, ‘One of the best ways for pupils to learn something, and remember something, is to experience it and this allows them to do that. ….. I honestly think that the whole package will become invaluable to schools and I just think it is really exciting, I really do!’  (Link to Video:

What a haptic learning programme offers is the opportunity to reinforce learning via physical experience of, for instance, scientific principles. It is now feasible to combine all forms of learning as here is the opportunity to incorporate such kinaesthetic learning as 3D haptic devices provide feedback and are unique as input-output devices. When combined with 3D audio-visual interfaces for the senses of stereo-vision and -sound , there is enormous potential for supporting good educational practice in art, physics, music, design, for improving learning and attainment, better learner outcomes, for feedback/measurement/assessment in an intuitive and enjoyably way. This facilitates the creation of the “virtual classroom”.

There is a clear momentum in the UK education sector for improvements in the learning process and the education suppliers’ sector is recognised as being at the forefront of innovation. There are significant opportunities for Touchable Universe to provide education related products and services to developers of learning programmes  particularly as there are 3.1 million adult learners in further education and around 9.7 million school age children. Plus enrolments in primary and secondary education have risen from 400 million and 184 million in 1970 to 691 million and 544 million in 2010. It is to these 2 sectors that we are developing prototype haptic apps to test whether haptics will enhance the learning process for many children.

We demonstrated in the earlier feasibility project that it is practical to combine the different forms of learning by combining different technologies (e.g. 2D and 3D haptics for feedback/unique input-output devices, 3D audio-visual interfaces for the senses of stereo-vision and –sound) to incorporate kinaesthetic learning, and that there is a clear market want and value for this capability. In order to take the project further forward to achieve our underlying goal of improving learning outcomes, and to optimise the commercial value of the solutions being created, a beta product and demonstrators are being developed.

The first demonstrator will be tested in Schools in April/May this year so we are under some pressure now to get it to the stage where staff and pupils can work with it and evaluate its effect on learning.