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Middlesex student creates 'Magic Mirror' to teach children

Product Design student launches free interactive learning tool.

A Middlesex University student has created an innovative ‘magic mirror’ to help teach primary school children numeracy, literacy and role-play games.  As part of his product design studies, Mike Saxton created the fun learning tool using technology called augmented reality (AR). “Guubes” turns computer screens or classroom whiteboards into a mirror on which computer graphics can be layered on to.  It is one of the first AR tools designed for the educational needs of schools.   

When children move a printable easy to make box in front of a webcam, the Guubes technology overlays an image on to the box in the reflection on the computer screen or whiteboard.  This allows children to see themselves alongside graphics including animals, monsters and numbers, all of which are used in a variety of learning games targeted specially for the requirements of key stage 1 school children. 

Whether pupils are counting the number of teeth monsters have or lining up animals in size order, the tool makes learning fun.  The software even includes a Guubes avatar creator allowing children to design personalised characters. 

The scalable learning tool is available free for use in schools or at home.  Using existing classroom technologies and simply visiting the Guubes website, schools can benefit from the fun and interactive games without the need to download or install programmes.  All teachers and parents require is an internet connection, webcam and printer to print the cubes. 

The learning tool was recently demonstrated at the British Educational Technology and Training (BETT) show, the largest education technology exhibition in the world, where it received positive feedback from teachers eager to try it with their pupils.       

Guubes was created by Mike as a joint university project with class-mate Shu-fang Huang, originally under the name of Cybloks.  It received two innovation awards and was then developed under the guidance of redLoop, the Middlesex University design and innovation centre.

Guubes creator, Mike Saxton, said: “Taking Guubes from just another idea into reality has been an amazing experience, all the way from developing the concept in my BSc degree until demonstrating it at the BETT show.  Schools are frequently subject to costly and over elaborate technology being pushed at them. Guubes addresses this by dematerialising the learning aid and making use of existing technologies in the classroom, and best of all it's free!” 

Middlesex University’s redLoop Director, Andy Bardill, who helped develop the product said: “Guubes has been a great journey and really shows the power of Middlesex’s approach to product design. We encourage all of our product design students to work with digital as well as physical materials, to embrace new technologies, to develop products that inspire people and that really work. Moving the work on in redLoop means that we have been able to actually deliver the product to end users rather than it just being an interesting exhibit in a design show aimed at other designers.”

Mike aims to continue to develop Guubes to meet schools needs with active involvement from its users.  Following feedback from the BETT show it will also be tailored to students with hearing difficulties and visual impairment in the future.    

“I've had really positive feedback from schools using Guubes. Children love the 'magic mirror' it creates. I hope to generate interest in the meaningful use of augmented reality in schools and to gain further support for taking the Guubes software to the next level,” added Mike. 

To learn more about Guubes and try it out for yourself, visit or follow #guubes

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