Bad news for maths teachers and good news for bad students, you can now download a mobile phone app that solves maths equations just by looking at them. Another way to avoid thinking for ourselves or a time saving and progressive technology – whatever way you look at it, this is a clever little app.
PhotoMath has been developed by MicroBlink using advanced text recognition technology to solve maths equations. The function couldn’t be simpler: users take a picture of the maths problem and have then the answer appears on screen, in real-time.
It doesn’t simply give the answer; it shows a step by step way of solving the equation as well. So those ready to come at it with pitchforks hold on, this app could have some value as a teaching or learning aid after all. However – pitchforks back in hand – the app can’t at present read handwriting, only printed characters . . . with textbooks books being the prime example. It does seem to have been made with this in mind. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Students have been able to use various computer programs and internet sites to ‘help’ them with their homework since the humble home PC became part of the furniture. This is just quicker.
It seems unavoidable that this will be used for maths homework. Even before home computing and pesky mobile apps, teachers had no real control how students behave out of the class room. Or who does their homework. But we can hope that even if their mobile tells them the answer, the steps become clear enough that they can do it for themselves when they absolutely have too – which they will when exam time comes round.
Also PhotoMath could cut down the time it takes to perform what is essentially a mechanical task leaving students to spend more time applying it to real problems, which is arguably more important. You don’t need to know how a combustion engine works to drive a rally car but you do to build one from the ground up. PhotoMath is a tool and we should judge what it is used for and the reasons for using it.
MicroBlink has spent the last three years developing the real-time text recognition technology that makes this product possible. PhotoMath is just one use of this technology which has been more widely used in the form of PhotoPay. In developing software for mobile phones MicroBlink have had to develop unique algorithms and are still in the process of tackling the challenges that come with this. Any software developers facing unique obstacles in developing a new product should contact RIFT Research and Development as they may be eligible for tax relief. RIFT have made many successful for software developing SME’s, many of whom have been working on mobile apps, and much like PhotoMath, RIFTdoes those time consuming calculations so they don’t have to. Contact RIFT to see if your software development activity qualifies for the R&D Tax Relief scheme.
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