Campus & Community

Futuristic PIVOT app serves up Harvard history

3 min read

Winner of 2014 Dean’s Challenge, i-lab startup takes off

Harvard University formally launched its official interactive online tour app last week. The free app features innovative augmented reality technology and allows visitors to visually experience the history of Harvard with a swipe — or pivot — of their smart phone. Users can instantly view historical images of significant landmarks on campus.

The cutting-edge app was built by PIVOTtheWorld, an award-winning startup out of the Harvard Innovation Lab’s (i-lab) Launch Lab for alumni. PIVOT co-founders Asma Jaber, M.P.P. ’14, and Sami Jitan won the Harvard Innovation Lab’s 2014 Dean’s Cultural Challenge. PIVOT’s CTO is Magnus Snorrason ’88.

The PIVOTtheWorld app allows users to see what places looked like in the past. By simply “pivoting” a mobile device, images from long ago days, along with relevant historical information, appear.

See the PIVOT app in action.

“The app is really awesome. It showed us old pictures of all the buildings and even gave us a summary. The whole idea is just really cool,” said Anthony Mancuso, 12, who came to Harvard from Westchester County, New York, with his mother, Debbie, and sister, Sophie, 9.

The app works by alerting users when they stumble upon a “PIVOT Point.” When users point their mobile device toward a specific landmark, they’ll be able to see what it looked like in the past. In some cases, multiple images, from different points in history, will appear.

See the PIVOT app in action.

“Harvard is excited to offer visitors this innovative experience. This new tour app will allow users to see Harvard landmarks through both a historical and modern lens, seeing how some have changed, while others have remained surprisingly unchanged,” said Paul Andrew, vice president of public affairs and communications at Harvard. “We are especially thrilled to bring to visitors an experience that emerged from the Launch Lab and was created by Harvard alumni.”

In the spring of 2015 Harvard was beginning the process of looking into building a new, updated mobile tour app, and was put in touch with Jaber and Jitan from the Launch Lab.

“Their startup was exactly what we were looking for — it’s innovative, it’s effective, it’s educational, and it all started right here at Harvard. We’re incredibly pleased with the app so far and are excited about continuing to update and expand it in the coming months,” said Robin Parker, associate director of Harvard’s Events and Information Center.

“Our mission was — and continues to be — to streamline historical and cultural preservation for places with histories or cultures at risk of being lost,” said Jaber. “Harvard is chock-full of history, much of which is unknown to the thousands of visitors who come here every year. This app allows anyone to access the historical information at anytime, anywhere on or off campus. We’re really excited to see the Harvard app and the PIVOT Point concept take off.”

Tour-goers began using the app almost immediately. “I’m always interested in what things looked like years ago — how they’ve changed over time,” said Akram Dweikat, who was visiting Harvard from Palestine. “It’s like living the lives of all those people over the years who came before us.”

The free app is available in the App Store and can be found by searching “Harvard Official Mobile Tour” or “PIVOTtheWorld.”