New Innovator: Tip tap tap

Cork-based ed-tech company’s interactive desk enhancing the way pupils learn

If Cork-based ed-tech company Tip tap tap (TTT) has its way, the writing is on the wall for the school desk, as we know it. What TTT would like schools to use instead, is its newly developed interactive learning table.

"Our product is a regular school table embedded with a layer of touch-sensing technology," explains company chief executive Stephen Collins. "This allows each student to interact with the learning content displayed on any presentation system – TV, projector or whiteboard.

“The teacher sources and controls the delivery of the educational content from their tablet, laptop or desktop. Tip tap tap is an Internet of Things platform offering connectivity and scalability across the educational ecosystem from classroom to school, town, country and beyond.”

The Tip tap tap desk distinguishes itself from existing products on the market by being cheaper to buy and more robust. However its main unique selling point is that it will work in tandem with printed material. The company says this is the first time digital and print learning materials can be used seamlessly side by side.

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For example, if a child is using a geography workbook and traces a map, the table will “pick up” the drawing and store it. The table is aimed at early years, primary, and special needs learning and there is already a lot of interest in the product from parents of children with autism.

Teachers can use the table to support their students in various ways. It allows them to see in real time how students are doing at a particular task or it can be used as an assessment method as all data is logged. It also allows students to interact with each other in the classroom.

TTT is a spin-out company based at the Nimbus Centre at Cork Institute of Technology. (The Nimbus Centre is a research facility devoted to embedded systems.) Collins' co-founders at TTT are Juan Martinez and Kevin O'Mahony.

Touch-sensing capabilities

Both Martinez and O’Mahony have spent most of their careers researching touch-sensing capabilities with natural materials such as wood and everyday surfaces such as floors and walls. Collins comes from a software development background and TTT is the sixth IT start-up with which he has been involved.

TTT was formally established in February of this year although its technology has been in development for over two years. In 2013, a feasibility study grant from Enterprise Ireland started the company on its road to commercialisation and it produced its first prototype in early 2014. Enterprise Ireland has since put additional funding of just under €300,000 into the venture and the company is now looking for further investment. Collins says TTT will have a team of 10 people by the end of 2016.

A second version of Tip tap tap was showcased at the Web Summit in November 2014 and there is a worldwide patent pending on the technology. The company has now produced version three of the table which is wireless and battery powered and a live trial has been successfully completed at Muinefliuch National School in Macroom, Co Cork. The product is due for official launch in September.

Because Tip tap tap crosses the digital-print divide, there has been a lot of interest in the product from traditional and digital education technology companies around the world. TTT is now in talks with a number of organisations with a view to establishing business partnerships and a distribution network.

The price of the product (which will be made in Ireland for now) has not yet been finalised but Collins says it will be competitive and stresses that schools get the table and the interactive technology as a single package. “TTT and its team are a good example of how a Government-funded project can evolve from cutting-edge academic research into an indigenous Irish company with a product that has the potential to disrupt on a global scale,” he says.

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