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Education wellbeing service developed in Bath launched today

A new web based service launched today by a company in Bath ensures children are heard in the primary school classroom and helps teachers monitor the wellbeing and happiness of their students.
Speakr makes it easy for teachers to see which of their students need some extra support, and can act as an early warning system alerting teaching staff to children who might be having difficulties at school.
Wellbeing and happiness are areas of increasing focus at a national level, with the UK Government spending £2m per year on research to understand the happiness of our children.
Speakr is the first and only online tool available that allows children to record their own feelings, from their perspective.
To use Speakr, children log into the system, either on a school computer or on an iPad. They can log in as often as they like, and can record how they feel throughout the school day by clicking on the ‘Speakr face’ that most closely reflects their emotions and entering some words to describe why they feel that way. Pupils can also use Speakr to send and receive messages with their teacher or another trusted adult within the school.
Teachers have their own login details, and can quickly and easily see how their whole class is feeling. They can identify whether a particular child appears to be out of sorts and follow this up with a conversation. Teachers can also provide ‘wellbeing’ reports to parents as part of their feedback about a child’s progress in their class.
Bath-based Anthony Lewis, father of two and founder of Speakr, said: “Often when children come home from school the only update you get as a parent is that their day was ‘Ok’ – it would be so helpful to know how they’ve really felt at school over a period of time. My original idea came from thinking about better ways to help children in care, but in talking to teachers it felt like there was an opportunity here for all children of primary school age.
“When Speakr was just a few ideas sketched on a piece of paper, the first teacher I spoke to about it – Hugh Thomas, Head of Science and PE at Broomhill Junior School in Bristol – said: “In my class of thirty, sometimes I don’t know if children are quiet because they’re quiet, or they’re quiet because there’s something wrong. If I had this tool, I’d know.” From that point on I believed we were on to something potentially amazing.
“Today’s primary school children are digital natives, so engaging them through technology they’re profoundly comfortable with seemed to offer an ideal way for them to record their feelings. We trialled Speakr in eight schools around the country and have had fantastic feedback from the children and their teachers.”
Mrs Delyth Williams, Head Teacher at Ysgol Bryn Teg in Llanelli, piloted Speakr. She said: “Assessing wellbeing is a challenge for all schools and Speakr will be a boost to all the schools that use it.”
Speakr is highly secure, with each school being allocated its own Speakr site, controlled by unique usernames and passwords for teachers and children. Children can’t share information on Speakr with classmates, everything they enter is kept between them and a minimum number of school staff.
Speakr has been trialled in schools around Britain over the past nine months and is now available to all schools and classes from September 2013. For a limited time, schools and classes can sign up to try Speakr for free. For more information see http://speakr.co.uk.
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You do the math! Bath developers launch educational app in the States

DoodleMathsAn educational app developed by a husband and wife team in Bath has been launched on the US market after becoming a top-selling educational app on the App Store in the UK.

Tom Minor and Nicola Chilman, who run a company called EZ Education Ltd, have taken their DoodleMaths app for iPhone and iPad over the Pond following 50,000 downloads in the UK.

The app’s content, which in the UK is aimed at Key Stage 2, has been adapted to cater for the elementary school syllabus in the US.

And, with the American market in mind, there has also been a slight tweak to the name – from DoodleMaths to DoodleMath.

The app motivates children to improve their maths by awarding them credits and accessories for their pet character avatar as they tackle each mathematical challenge.

DoodleMathsAs a child uses the app, DoodleMaths uses a feedback algorithm to detect the child’s strengths and weaknesses and develops a continually-evolving programme of study that is tailored to each individual.

It is a busy summer for Tom and Nicola, who in September will launch a version of the app that is aimed at schools. DM Schools will have multi-user functionality and enable teachers to monitor individual and whole-class progress in real time.

Tom and Nicola are both maths teachers, and the idea for the app was inspired by them watching their own children interact with an iPad.

Tom, who along with Nicola also runs the Kip McGrath Education Centre in Bath, said: “I’ve always been passionate about teaching and I had very clear ideas about how I felt maths should be taught even before we had the concept for the app. I’d started to introduce those ideas at the tuition centre and then when I saw our own children pick up an iPad, I realised we could extend the ideas to a much wider audience.

“It’s exciting that we now have an audience in the United States too, although it’s still early days for us in that market. But as maths is such a fundamental, universal skill, we are confident DoodleMath can match the success we’ve had in the UK.”

Nicola Chilman and Tom Minor of DoodleMaths

Nicola Chilman and Tom Minor’s DoodleMaths app has had 50,000 downloads in the UK.

From an early stage children from around the Bath area were involved in the app’s development, with Bathford Primary and Writhlington Schools providing input.

Nicola said: “The feedback we’ve had has been excellent and has inspired us to develop DM Schools. We’ve had children with a DoodleMaths age of eight-and-a-half years and they’ve then made two-and-a-half years of progress in just a few weeks.”

But hitting the top 10 list for educational apps on the UK App Store was something that was only achieved after painstaking research, explained Tom.

“Research is absolutely essential for successful app development,” he said. “Does your idea fill a gap in the App Store? If it doesn’t, think again. If it does, then go for it and get as much feedback as you can along the way.”

More information about the app is available at www.doodle-maths.co.uk.

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Jowst acquired by Xfire

Bath startup Jowst has announced this week that it has been acquired by US based Xfire.

Jowst is a community platform that aims to centralise a players gaming experience. For both casual and competitive gamers it aims to offer a comprehensive and unique reward and results system to show each player’s achievements and losses through their public profile.

Founder and CEO Gavin Weeks said: “We’re very excited to announce that Jowst has been acquired by Xfire.

“We are very passionate about rewriting the rules of how gamers create, host and participate in tournaments and are confident our product is capable of delivering this. Now we’re joining the Xfire team to accomplish a much bigger vision — one that can only be achieved with Xfire’s support and guidance. We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our alpha testers who have supported us and given us priceless feedback, allowing us to build the foundations of a fantastic product.

“We have had an amazing experience building Jowst over the last 18 months and look forward to continuing to do so as part of the Xfire family. Full speed ahead!”

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I was introduced to Matt Brown by Guy McCusker, who works at the University of Bath. Autostitch has become my favourite-by-far photo app on the iPhone and when Guy told me it had been developed here in the city, I went in search of more information..

Q: First, please introduce yourself

I’m Matt Brown, a Lecturer at the University of Bath and a founder of Cloudburst Research, a startup specialising in Computer Vision on mobile devices. I first heard about Computer Vision when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, then moved to Canada to do a PhD in the area. I started doing some research in object recognition and panorama stitching, and out of that came Autostitch.

Q: What is Autostitch?

Autostitch automatically combines photographs into seamless panoramas, using object recognition techniques to recognise overlaps and align the images. It’s based on research I did as a PhD student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Later, I teamed up with Professor David Lowe and Dr Bob Hearn (also from UBC) to form a startup company called Cloudburst Research, which is now developing and improving the software for iPhone, iPad, Android etc.

Q: How does it differ from other products that do a similar thing?

Autostitch is a very flexible approach to panorama stitching as it can work with photos from any source and in any arrangement. Other panorama apps have a constrained capture process, such as a single sweep in the case of Apple’s panorama stitcher. They also tend to use lower quality and often blurry video footage, whereas Autostitch works with high resolution stills. This approach, combined with advanced algorithms for alignment and blending, gives us the highest quality on the App Store and results that are comparable with professional desktop software.

Richmond panorama

Q: Without getting too scientific (!) can you describe how it does what it does so well?

A key part of the approach is the use of Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT) features to find matches between the images. This approach was developed by one of our co-founders, Professor David Lowe, and has been revolutionary in the field of Computer Vision. We are then able to implement the remaining stages of a professional panorama stitching pipeline, including bundle adjustment for optimal alignment of all the images, and multi-bland blending for high quality output. Dr Bob Hearn provided a lot of expertise to allow us to implement this efficiently and beautifully on iOS.

Q: What next for Autostitch?

We’re working on a new Android version, as well as several improvements to our iOS versions for iPhone and iPad. Our team has grown to 5 people, and we’re looking forward to the future of Computer Vision and Photography on mobile.

Q: What’s your favourite panorama taken with Autostitch?

That’s a difficult question! I spent a lot of time in the mountains when I was in BC and some of the most amazing panoramas I’ve shot were taken there. But now that Autostitch is always in my pocket it’s much easier to share panoramic views from anywhere… I stitched a really great panorama inside the stadium at the London Olympics last summer, for example.

Autostitch is available on the app store here.

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From RAF engineer to app engineer

When Matt Powlson’s job as an RAF aircraft engineering officer took him away from his family, he still wanted to read his three-year-old daughter Libby a bedtime story.

Matt Powlson

Matt Powlson. Picture: The Bath Chronicle/Bath News & Media

From that paternal desire, an entire business has developed. Matt set about writing a programme for a digital picture book. Every time his daughter turned a page, his pre-recorded voiceover would read the words. So began a series of interactive children’s book apps, with Matt quickly forging links with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The renaissance man was still with the RAF at the time, but having left the Forces in October, he is now running his business BlueWorks from Regency House in Wood Street.

It marks quite a change of lifestyle – and environment – for the electronic engineering graduate. He spent 20 years in the RAF working in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and Kuwait. His final four years were in Ohio.

When he left the air force in October and made a trip to Bath’s Christmas Market, he reached the decision that Bath was where he wanted to base his business.

“I fell back in love with the city and things just started to fall into place,” he said. “Since then, with the Bath Digital Festival and the X Media Lab taking place in March, I’ve met some great people in the city who are all digital innovators. The creative mood in Bath is so strong.

In January, he found an office on a Thursday, founded the firm on the Friday, and started work the following Monday.

His main focus now is the We-Reader, an app that enables multiple people to comment on the same text in an interactive way – with the author also being able to interact.

“It allows you to have a reading group all the time – with the author in the room,” explained Matt. “It’s potentially a global community for sharing thoughts.”

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Video: story of three startups at XML

Great video (produced by CMP Students at Bath Spa Uni) that gives an insight into how valuable X Media Lab bath 2012 was for three Bath-based startups (Artolo, TwiDAQ and Hereo).

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SPARKies Finalist Profiles: Biggest success story of 2011

There’s less than a week to go before The SPARKies Awards Party at Komedia. Where we’ll honour the greatest and best in Bath tech.  After our previous roundup of the Best App nominees, here are the finalists in the award for The Biggest Success Story of last year.

Burfield Creative

Back in 2006 James Burfield set up a web design agency starting with one client. The company now has over 250 clients and employed seven new staff in a bumper year for the company. Burfield Creative now boast clients including Talon Engineering, Procserve, Off The Record, Cotswold Archeology and Suzuki Apico to name but a few. Olympic athlete Jason Gardener is also a client after starting a new career as a public speaker and sports consultant – his website is designed to showcase his achievements as well as promote his motivational speaking, team-building and athlete management services.


Deep Blue Sky

Digital agency Deep Blue Sky has doubled in size during 2011 increasing its reputation for innovation and technical excellence along the way. Deep Blue Sky makes extensive use of the very latest web standards and delivery platforms to bring new and exciting products to market, not only outward-facing websites and mobile apps, but also business applications and integration tools. Deep Blue Sky was chosen to design and develop the hugely successful twiDAQ, a free fantasy stock exchange game powered by social media where participants can ‘invest’ in any celebrity, politician, sporting hero or friend. Other work in 2011 included sites for Langley Waterproofing and Room for Romance as well as a multi-lingual catalogue website for the world-renowned workwear brand Dickies.



Eduserv may be a charity, but it’s one of Bath’s enduring tech success stories and 2011 was no exception. The company had a 17 per cent growth in turnover in 2010/11 and grew staff numbers by nearly a fifth. The company has secured funding to build a community cloud infrastructure for UK universities and colleges in its UK data centre. Its Education Cloud is now being used by over 20 UK universities. The company also won an e-Gov award and a Sitecore Site of the Year award for its redevelopment of the NHS Direct website. The symptom checker tools are now integrated with not only its CMS but more importantly its call centre. During 2011, the organisation also won a number of high profile web development and hosting customers including Scottish Water, NHS24 and the British Red Cross.



Picochip is one of the bigger names on the Bath tech scene. Since 2001 Picochip has grown from a kitchen table in Sydney Street to offices above Bongy-Bo, and become a major supplier of wireless technology to companies like Cisco, Samsung and Alcatel-Lucent. Over 100 4G networks around the world rely on the company’s tech for 3G and 4G networks and it has now been selected for S K Telecom for the next generation network. Its femotcell products are with consumers in 13 countries in the form of Vodafone’s SureSignal device. However, the big story of the year was the company’s sale to Mindspeed for between $52-76 million. The company is now the headquarters of Mindspeed’s Wireless Business Unit.

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SPARKies Finalist Profiles: Best App

With less than two weeks before The SPARKies Awards Party, we thought it would be a good idea to profile all of the finalists. So this is the first post in a series that will profile the finalists in each category. First up: Best App.

Roodie Noodies

Roodie Noodies

Roodie Noodies is a bright, colourful and fun game developed for the whole family.  Featuring beach dwelling creatures who love playing games such a Slippery Pole or Rubbery rings, its popularity has surged because of its addictiveness and wide appeal. Available for both the iPhone and iPad, it was developed by Complete Control who focus upon creating fresh entertainment and media rich educational resources.



Showreel showcases the latest HD movie trailers on the iPad against a beautifully designed backdrop featuring movie art and plot summaries, creating a stunning visual experience for the avid movie-goer.  Also features streaming over AirPlay, allowing users to watch trailers on the big screen too. Developed by Riot, a small design & development team working in Bath, who have also created the Converse and Shaken apps for the iPad.


Tap! Magazine AppTap!

Tap! is a digital magazine for the iPhone and iPad, with useful guides, “how tos” and app reviews to ensure users get the most from their devices.  Also featuring the latest hardware and accessory tests, helping buyers to make informed decisions about their next purchases. Developed by Future Publishing, the creators of some of the biggest names in the tech media industry such as MacFormat, T3, Total Film and TechRadar.com.

This category represents a diverse selection of apps yet all are testament to the high calibre of the Bath tech industry. Want to know who will win? Make sure you get your tickets for the SPARKies Awards party on Wednesday 21st March at Komedia.

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Bath app developers – shaken not stirred

Coding and drinking might not always be the wisest of bedfellows – but the combination has paid off for one Bath firm.

App developers Riot have teamed up with their local bar,  Door 34, to whet the appetite of cocktail drinkers.

Inspired by evenings at the bar, staff at Riot set about devising an iPhone app that generates new cocktail recipes.

With the shake of a phone, the Shaken app comes up with the recipe for a new drink with a novel name.

Andy Walsh, owner of Door 34, with guys from Riot. Photo: Lloyd Ellington The Bath Chronicle / Bath News & Media

“It’s a bit like drinking roulette,” says Andy Walsh, owner of Door 34.

Elliott Kember, of Riot, said the app had been developed during one of his firm’s regular hack nights.

“It only took about half-an-hour to get it working and then we all trooped back down to the bar to try it out,” recalls Elliott. “To everyone’s great surprise it worked really well. That was a great night!”

Shaken is available from iTunes priced 69p

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