During his time as a school psychologist, Rich Brancaccio saw students struggle to stay focused in the classroom; and worked with helpless parents that wanted to find a new way to approach the issue.
When a student has difficulty with reading or math, the school can gather data to help them improve. Brancaccio thought, why isn’t there a way to gather data about a student’s focus issues?
Brancaccio researched the educational tools to see what was available in the market, but came up empty-handed.
After teaching himself to program, Brancaccio created an algorithm that would send vibration signals through a wearable to spark metacognitive awareness and snap the student out of a distracted state.
In 2013, he founded edtech startup Revibe Technologies to take his Fitbit look-a-like to market. To avoid students getting accustomed to the vibration, the Revibe switches up vibration patterns, strengths, and frequencies.
After a three-month pilot study, Revibe saw an almost 20 percent improvement over baseline concentration; and for the top half of participants, the average increase was about 38 percent over baseline.
After obtaining a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2017, the startup launched an updated device, Revibe Connect, in late 2018. This wearable not only provides vibration reminders, but also gathers data from internal sensors and uses machine learning to customize the frequency and patterns to each child’s school schedule.
“The more they wear it, the wearable starts figuring out when they’re in a certain class and how it should prompt them,” says Brancaccio.
The wearable captures six core metrics including overall focus, on-task score, activity, and fidgeting (tapping a pencil, moving the feet, etc.)
Revibe Connect displays daily metrics on a dashboard accessible on desktop and a mobile app. Teachers, parents and students can see trends throughout the day, as well as attention span improvements over time.
When they have that daily data, teachers and parents can provide recommendations to tweak the child’s day for maximum productivity.
For example, Brancaccio points out that research shows that a five-minute walk can help some students improve their focus.
“Teachers and administrators would use our data to say, it looks like during language arts, for instance, this child really struggles. They can then send them on a short walk to refocus them.”
Revibe’s target audience is students between the ages of six and fifteen, but they’ve even seen adults purchasing the wearable to identify their high productivity hours.
The startup has a national reach and most recently signed on the New York City Department of Education, one of the largest school systems in the world. Its revenue model has two tiers: device-only with a free trial, and a fully-activated Revibe Connect with a cloud storage subscription.
They recently raised a strategic seed round with Toronto investor Multi Health System, a leading publisher of scientifically-validated educational assessments.
“The goal is to make research-based data accessible, to make it simple to understand, and to make it very easy to use for parents, teachers, and students,” Brancaccio says.