Google asked me to envision a solution for the challenge of teachers having to remember the names of a large number of students.

The Problem:

Every year, teachers are faced with the challenge of remembering names for a large number of new students.

The Solution:

What if teachers didn’t have to remember the names at all?

Using augmented reality and facial recognition technology, teachers never have to remember a name. In addition, this technology can be used to further augment teachers’ abilities.



It started, as always, with research. After I received the brief, I had more questions than answers:

  • What’s the context? Big classrooms, small classrooms?
  • Is this a solution that makes sense for classes with hundreds of students?
  • How many classes are teachers managing?
  • Do we even need a technology solution for this?
  • Namecards on tables works just fine for me….
  • What’s the real pain point of not remembering names? What will happen if we don’t fix this problem?

Qualitative research: Key insights

I asked 29 teachers: How do you memorize students’ names? How long does it take until you’ve memorized all names? Any problems you encounter while doing so?

  • Most of the teachers I talked to learned with photo-flash cards.
  • One just makes the students keep the name cards on their table indefinitely.
  • One teacher had a specific technique for learning names in one session. I found it so effective, that I give it extra attention at the end of this case study.
  • Most teachers have the names remembered within two weeks, but some struggled for up to 6 weeks.
  • No teacher I spoke to personally used the technique I read most about online: associating a name with some kind of rhyme or random sentence.

In large lecture classes(over 100), remembering each individual name becomes less important, because 1) there’s less personal contact and 2) it’s just too many names to remember.

Students with foreign names, appreciate it deeply if a teacher puts in the effort to remember and pronounce their name properly. In Germany, everyone mispronounced my name so I could very much relate to that.

Getting names wrong leads to humiliation for both the teacher and the student. Students that don’t feel like the teacher knows them, will be less likely to engage in class, or ask the teacher for feedback.

Learning and remembering everyone’s name is a sign of respect. Taking time to discover who we are in a group always pays off. The more we know about each other, the more comfortable we feel working with each other.

Alternate solutions

Doing a photo flash card app seemed like an obvious solution. It’s what most teachers are already doing anyway. There’s already apps for that: 

Additional work for teachers

Adding & memorizing flashcards for hundreds of students takes a lot of time. Using AR removes this process from their mind completely and lets them focus on the many other things an effective teacher needs to do.

No potential future applications

Doing AR just to remember people’s names is overkill — like building a robot to pour you a glass of milk. But if we use AR to not only let teachers remember students names, but augment their total capabilities as a teacher…there’s a lot of potential there.

Next steps/thoughts

One clarification: up above, I said that you target students by looking at them. This is in reference to the “Gaze” targeting, pioneered by Microsoft Hololens:


If I had more time:

I’d spend a lot more of it talking to more teachers — I felt like I was just scratching the surface.

I’d create personas and more detailed storyboards to communicate the story to stakeholders.

Think about: where will the data for the facial recognition tech (images of students) come from?

How will Google Classrooms App have to change to accomodate the new information: images of students, tidbits of information about students, etc….need to do more research into that app

Can we combine this with a microphone? That way we could, perhaps track when students have last participated in class.

Can we add gamification? E.g. only show the name of a student partially, so encourage memorization.

And of course, I’d build out a prototype and test it in real life.


This is a technical solution, for the purpose of a design exercise. However, from a design strategy perspective, I’m not convinced that this is a problem that requires a technology solution.

I’ve seen one of my co-instructors remember 40 students’ names in 20 minutes using this technique:

  • Student says name and gives an interesting tidbit of information about themselves
  • Teacher responds with “Thank you, (name)”
  • Repeat with each student, then teacher goes around the circle and repeats every student’s name
  • To make it extra fun, you can involve the students in the process — let students try to repeat the name of each student in the group

There’s also currently the cost issue of providing AR glasses to every teacher.

The only way I see AR for teachers being viable is if you add much more value than just helping remember students’ names. That route is forward-thinking and could prove highly profitable.

Scroll to Top