New maths app solves equations in seconds

Croatian tech entrepreneur creates application that uses character recognition software allowing smart phones to solve math equations in seconds. The free app, launched in October last year, has had 11 million downloads so far, and its inventor has been contacted by major tech companies about it.

ZAGREB, CROATIA (FEBRUARY 24, 2015) (REUTERS) – Most parents know the feeling when their child comes home from school and soon cries out for help with math homework. That was the inspiration behind Croatian programmer and tech entrepreneur Damir Sabol’s idea to create a smartphone application that solves mathematical tasks within a split second.

The result was PhotoMath, an app that scans equations via a smartphone camera and immediately returns the result, with a step-by-step explanation of the process.

“They (pupils) can check the results in their textbooks, they can calculate quickly and get the result fast and see whether they did it right or not, but they can also get all the steps used to solve math problems. So it’s not just a matter of getting results, but the whole process of getting to the solution. And we offer the entire process, step by step, along with explanations of what is being done. So that someone who is alone with a textbook, who just stares at equations and doesn’t know what to do, our app can help them in many cases, I believe,” Sabol said.

Unveiled at a computer fair in London last October, the free application has been downloaded more than 11 million times by iOS users.

A version working with Android, as well as an upgrade for iOS, is due within days and will make the app capable of solving math problems for secondary school students.

“We are about to release a new version of the app. First we will release the Android version, which is a much bigger market, and we expect that to be the next element of growth, but not only that – the new version will support much more complex math problems and we believe it will be much more interesting and useful for users, which is also why we expect the number of users to grow even further,” Sabol told Reuters in his sparsely decorated office, sporting only laptops, desks and whiteboards on which a dozen young software engineers jot down ideas and algorithms.

His company, MicroBlink , made a breakthrough in 2012 with PhotoPay scanning technology used for mobile banking, which scans slips and enables their instant payment. Sabol says the technology is now used by 15 banks all over Europe.

The same technology is used in the new maths app, which Sabol said had elicited scores of emails from grateful students, parents and teachers.

“We hear from mothers who say ‘Finally, I can help my children solving maths’. We hear from teachers who say their entire classroom is using the app,” he said.

Sabol said he has no regrets about making the app free, as it enabled it to gain a large user base, but added that he was now looking for ways to commercialise the project.

“We have been contacted by big international education companies who are interested in forming partnerships with us, they are interested in using our technology, they see our technology is something that really works in education and that it is something children want to use, and they see lots of potential for that. We believe this has really huge potential,” Sabol said.