Rajeev Pathak, Suryaprakash Konanuru, Haris Poonthala, once part of Wipro, quit their respective jobs to give wings to their startup dreams. Haris says, “I was interested in teaching. I was teaching as a part of voluntary educational projects and am keen on educational aspects.” What they have on offer is FunToot, an intelligent and adaptive personal tutor that observes, assesses diagnoses, interacts, encourages and helps every child based on each child’s individual characteristics.
Suryaprakash says that they started building this product to create a global education technology company out of India.. Even more important is their belief that ground up innovation has not happened in technologies for children. Another reason is giving back to society as the three of them are from a middle class background.
Artificial Intelligence for individual kid development
They had conceived five products originally for education space and took it to 100 schools across India through conferences. “We realized that we have to address fundamental issues rather than some superficial things. Static content, ERP and Interactive white boards are being done by a lot of companies. But we wanted to understand what the fundamental issues are in education system. We discovered, “It was individual attention to each child,” says Suryaprakash. He reasons why AI was used by explaining, “Treating everybody as equal in a class is okay but not sufficient as every child is different. That made us think that we need to provide a personal tutor. If you want to provide a personal tutor there are ways to do that and we found AI to be the significant technology element.”
Partnering with select schools, they started off their journey. A few products out of the original five fell by the wayside due to market research and user feedback. The partner schools adopted their products and gave continuous feedback. Explaining the challenges, Suryaprakash says, “Ours is not only a disruptive technology product but it’s an intersection of education pedagogy, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Complimenting strengths in pedagogy, AI, Cloud, and animation is important to build the product”. Suryaprakash points out, “Having the right skills in each one of the areas is the key – to bring the best teachers, best usability experts, to bring the pedagogy experts and the best technologists, has been critical success factor for us so far. Each has value and each has to work together. One cannot override the other guy.” Haris adds, “children, by nature, like to experiment and handling children is a challenge. As more data is given as input, more intelligent our product becomes.”
Finding a way to understand each child
Using features such as ‘Discovery’, ‘Observation’ and ‘interaction’, FunToot adapts to each child’s unique characteristics.
Suryaprakash says “FunToot knows the child’s characteristics and what the child has done until yesterday and until now. So, it has all the information about the child –, based on which Funtoot helps the child in the same way as a good human tutor will do in one-on-one scenario.
How was Funtoot developed?
Aided by a full-time pedagogy team to design subject matter, Funtoot is capable of self-correction of a problem thanks to the robust effort of the R&D team. Another USP of the product is “it can accept input in numeric form, text form and in geometric form, which is a pretty complex procedure.
Three schools have signed up already and 20 more are in the pipeline for next academic year. So far, 1000 students have used the product. All the schools have given impressive feedback on the product. Science and English are waiting to be added to the repertoire of Funtoot, which now has content in Mathematics.
FunToot is Device Agnostic
eDreams is not focusing their effort in hardware, as the innovation in intelligent personal tutoring is the focus and not the devices. Rajeev says, “We are partnering with device vendors to take FunToot on to multiple devices like PCs, Tablets, Notebooks and Netbooks” and FunToot is device agnostics and can run on any device through private, public and hybrid cloud models.
Trends in education as captured by eDreams
About trends in education, Rajeev says, “One major trend which we are seeing is a holistic development of a child, rather than being traditional rote type of learning. Every parent expects their child to get best possible education. So the parent pressure on school and schools in turn changing themselves seems to be a good development.” Another interesting development is curriculum that matches global standards in good private schools, and students from South-East Asia and Middle East are coming to India for studies. The residential schools of this type are only in the premium segment though. Private schools are preferred even in rural areas. Big private schools such as Edify, VIBGYOR, and Euro Schools are setting a new benchmark in the educational space in India, according to Rajeev.
Talking of rural forays, Rajeev says, “In future, we desire to work with Government, NGOs etc to localize the product and take it to rural masses. Rural primary and secondary education is constrained by the non-availability of good quality teaching staff. FunToot is our attempt to help address this issue.
Learning Made Fun
It has been a big challenge and lot of hard work for the eDreams team to build FunToot, but it gives immense happiness to the team when they see kids enjoying and learning with FunToot.
FunToot is a bold venture in a niche segment of education and we at YourStory.in wish eDreams all the very best in their endeavours.
In News: Recently raised first round of investment from Mumbai Angels.
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