FlashSticks® creates the world’s first object translator

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Learning Labs Ltd has developed new technology that provides an instant translation in over 40 languages when any object is scanned via its FlashSticks® smartphone app.

Learning Labs produces a range of uniquely printed FlashSticks® Post-it Notes® which contain a foreign word, translation, visual icon and phonetic to help with pronunciation. The range of notes are stocked in WHSmith, Staples, Amazon and Tesco stores, but are now complemented by the FlashSticks® smartphone app, which is number one in the new education apps chart on the Google Play Store.

Veejay Lingiah, CEO of Learning Labs said: “The concept behind the newly launched FlashSticks® app is to make learning a language fun, accessible, interactive and effective through the use of innovative technology. If you scan a handbag via the app, it can tell you that it’s a red leather women’s handbag and translate that into over 40 foreign languages, together with audio options to help with pronunciation. If you scan your pet dog, the algorithms we have developed for the app are so comprehensive it will tell you the breed of dog in the foreign language you are learning.

“The FlashSticks® app is such fun, it has an addictive element to it, which is why it’s free to download, with in-app subscriptions ranging from £2.29 to £2.99 per month. We want this to be a really affordable and accessible tool to help people of all ages learn a foreign language in totally new way.”

The technology behind the new FlashSticks®app took 12 months to develop. The complex algorithms means that the object being scanned does not need to have been seen by the system’s image processor before – a written and audio description will be generated for any recognisable object.

In addition to the object scanner, the FlashSticks® app enables users to learn grammar tips and take on challenges to progress their learning in their chosen foreign language. It keeps track of how many words you know, as a form of blended learning.

The FlashSticks® app also features carefully designed games made after consultation with over 100 modern language teachers and linguists, to fuel better learning.  Different games target the different aspects of vocabulary a learner has to tackle including: meaning, pronunciation, spelling, gender of nouns, listening and context within a sentence.

The app incorporates the science of learning for maximum learner retention and engagement, and can be used by learners at a variety of levels, whether it’s a pre-holiday brush up, helping children’s learning or structured long term studying. The app can also be used in conjunction with the FlashSticks® Post-it® notes, available in six languages including British Sign Language.  Scan a Post-it® with the app and augmented reality streams a video of a native speaker pronouncing or signing the word. This function is great for any learner, particularly those learning outside their chosen country or studying on their own.

The idea for FlashSticks® came from Learning Labs’ Director Richard Allen, who whilst on a business trip, started to use hand-written Post-it Notes® around his hotel room as a way to learn Spanish. Although the method was effective, he felt that pre-printed notes could make it so much easier. After establishing how the concept would work best, it took a year to develop the initial product range – alongside Learning Labs’ strategic manufacturing partner 3M – which enables Post-it® Notes to be uniquely printed with different vocabulary boosting information.

Since Flashsticks® products were first launched onto the market in 2013, over 150,000 packs have been ordered. The start-up has secured over £500,000 of investment to forward fund production costs, further develop the product in many more languages and fund development of the new app.

The FlashSticks® brand trademark has been registered and there is a UK Patent pending. The new FlashSticks® App is free to download on iOS and Android devices. For further product information, or to place an order, visit www.flashsticks.com.

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