Ideas Literally Jumping Right Off the Page

With a Norwegian founder, an AR revolution in education is already in full swing. 

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Eirik Wahlstrøm, Harald Manheim, and Ingrid Skrede (pictured, l-r) co-founded Ludenso, one of the world’s leading augmented reality platforms built specifically for educational publishers and teachers. 

Founded in Oslo in 2018, Ludenso has developed among the world’s first augmented reality authoring tools specifically designed for educational publishers. Using the tool, educational publishers can seamlessly incorporate AR models into their textbooks, helping drive student engagement and create a more immersive learning experience. 

Ludenso has partnerships established with several world-renowned publishers, including Cambridge University Press and SAGE. Through these partnerships, Ludenso now powers over 100,000 monthly learning experiences globally and has established itself as an industry leader in the field of AR in education. 

In this interview with EdTech Digest, Eirik discusses Ludenso’s story, what the company has planned for 2024, and how AR can help widen accessibility within education. 

What inspired you to start Ludenso?

I’ve always been excited by the potential of XR to reshape the way we consume information, and before Ludenso I worked with my co-founders Harald Manheim and Ingrid Skrede to build Immerse Optics. With Immerse Optics, we were on a mission to transform ordinary phone screens into portals for extraordinary experiences.

After a successful Kickstarter for our augmented reality (AR) headset MagiMask in 2018, we gained hundreds of customers from across a wide range of industries (ranging from Equinor to Spacemaker!), showing us that we were witnessing an XR revolution across not just one sector, but society as a whole. 

One day, we were invited to a school to try out AR in the classroom and we immediately saw the potential to help engage and inspire a new generation of students. That’s when we realized that we wanted to help incorporate XR technology into schools across the globe. 

‘One day, we were invited to a school to try out AR in the classroom and we immediately saw the potential to help engage and inspire a new generation of students.’

However, we quickly learned that selling AR hardware to schools would be challenging to scale and expensive for teachers to adopt in the classroom. So we had to rethink our direction, and that’s when the idea for Ludenso was born. 

Our vision was that Ludenso’s platform would utilize the tech the students and teachers already knew – their mobiles/tablets. 

Fast forward to today, and we’ve partnered with some of the biggest names in publishing, including SAGE and Cambridge University Press. In October last year, we powered over 100,000 learning experiences. Within two months, we saw this number double to reach over 200,000, and we’re on course to see this rate of growth continue in 2024.

What key benefits does augmented reality bring to the classroom?

At the heart of any classroom are the textbooks students use. These learning materials are a student’s gateway to learning and often represent the first point of contact that they have with any subject. However, in a time where attention span has dramatically dropped due to new day-to-day technologies, they lack the ability to inspire students and convey information in an interactive and helpful way.

By incorporating AR into textbooks, students can better understand and engage with the content of their textbooks. Whether video, audio or 3D models, AR can turn print textbooks into breathing wells of educational material. For students, independent research shows that there are clear benefits of using AR. For example, 82% of students find AR lessons helpful compared to conventional lessons.

Research has also shown students’ focus on studying complicated subject matter increases when they have access to AR tools as part of their learning. This is due to the fact that AR facilitates memory retention by using multi-sensory experiences to help students form stronger cognitive connections, enhancing recall and long-term retention of educational content for all students.

How does Ludenso help improve accessibility in education?

Accommodating accessibility in learning materials has always been a challenge for publishers and educators alike. Although some students thrive using traditional learning methods, others with ADHD, dyscalculia or other neurodiverse profiles can feel left behind as they struggle to absorb the necessary information from their textbooks. 

For example, students with reading disabilities such as dyslexia often struggle with traditional printed materials. Some dyslexic readers may request a larger font or need individualized instruction and pacing to help them get to grips with the content. 

AR can help maximize the accessibility of textbooks for these students, creating a customizable reading experience aimed at increasing comprehension. These visualizations are easily customizable and can help boost their independence and self-esteem in the classroom. 

At Ludenso, we’ve been working with the University of Oslo, the University of Stavanger, and Norsk Regnesentral (NR) on research projects to further our understanding of how AR can assist those with learning disabilities. Although AR technology still has room to develop, the initial results of this research show promise for students with learning disabilities to see a significant benefit from using AR. 

Furthermore, when you set out to design and create an inclusive learning tool, it improves the educational experience for everyone in the classroom.  Indeed, research has shown that 97.3% of students agree that the use of mobile AR applications has a positive impact on their learning. 

How do you see AR evolving in the education sector in 2024?

Whilst in 2023 generative AI took center stage in the education sector, as classrooms across the globe sought to adapt to the rapid rise of programs such as ChatGPT, in 2024 we’ll see the hype around AI replaced by more practical discussions around how AR and AI technologies can be effectively deployed in the classroom. 

A common misconception has been that AR is merely a passing trend, applicable mainly to gaming and that it only appeals to a niche audience or specific demographics. In 2024, we’ll see AR become more commonplace throughout the education sector. 

The growing popularity of smartphones and tablets as an educational tool, coupled with the release of Apple’s Vision Pro later in 2024, will help fuel the growth of AR and AR-capable devices. In 2019, there were 440 million AR-compatible mobile devices. 

This number jumped to over 1.4 billion in 2023. By 2024 there will be an estimated 1.7 billion mobile augmented reality devices. It’s clear that the AR revolution is in full swing, and that classrooms across the globe will begin seeing its positive effects in 2024.

What does Ludenso have planned for 2024

2023 was a huge year for us at Ludenso. We announced several groundbreaking partnerships, including with Books of Discovery, Express Publishing, and SAGE which have helped empower educators and students across the globe. Whilst these partnerships are historic milestones for Ludenso, which have helped trigger over 100,000 learning experiences worldwide for educators and students, we’re going to continue to find new ways to help revolutionize the classroom. We’ve already got some exciting announcements already planned for 2024, so watch this space!

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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