Virtual reality for Special Education Needs

Working with Special Education Needs can be very heartening, though its not difficult to imagine the multiple challenges faced by their  instructor. Students with cognitive, intellectual, mental, or other disabilities often deficit communication skills, apart from difficulty in concentration, focus, and expression. For our quest to contribute to enhance learning practices, we have experienced how Virtual Reality is one revolutionary method in special education in many aspects.

 

Increasingly being recognized as an effective tool for its rehabilitation abilities for cognitive processes and functional aspects, Virtual Reality (VR) provides special needs students with opportunities to improve their intellectual and motor skills within the safe powerful simulated virtual environments. Given that the students with special needs are limited in their ability to explore their surrounding and extended environments, VR affords them the opportunity to discover the world in fascinating virtual environments where they are able to swim with the sharks or fly in the clouds, go on space excursion and even travel to planet Mars, sounds like an exciting classroom.

 

This is what VRXOne is going to be showcasing at the most awaited annual Bahrain Summer Festival where Nakhool Tent is opened to the families for participation in many cultural events, educational activities and entertainment programs. Bringing “Google Expeditions for Special Education Needs” to the event, the program will be held in association with the Bahrain Association for Parents and Friends of the Disabled, which is known in the region for its brilliant contribution towards the well-being and welfare of special needs students and their families through a number of interactive events, lectures, learning activities as well as cultural celebrations.

 

Just last year, the Association awarded Dr. Sana Farid, the AR/VR/Ai and Simulation expert at VRXOne and Co-founder & CEO of Munfarid Consulting, for her efforts and training workshops in Technology Aided Learning & Development for the Disabled, and Assistive Technology. Her ongoing efforts for the cause are manifest through VRXOne’s One Million VR Expeditions program in the Middle East with a special focus on Special Education Needs.

 

Since the use of virtual environments for special needs is as diverse as the field of Special Education itself, VR offers many benefits for students with disabilities including the ability to be adaptable and controllable as per the needs of an individual student, making it all the more ideal for special education purposes. What’s even more exciting is that beyond merely providing the chance to explore and learn about places, things, processes and subjects, VR even helps equip students with life skills by simulating training environments that assist in highlighting and focusing on individual strengths, abilities and learning preferences outside of their real world disabilities.

What this does for a special needs students is essentially huge in terms of a remarkable change in their self-confidence, self-esteem and ultimately serving to transform them into contributing citizens in the society. Ms. Abla Ahmed Mohamed, the Head of Activities and Projects Committee at the Bahrain Association of Parents and Friends of the Disabled, is certainly positive about the impact of VR in a special needs classroom, “The impact of VR on special needs is fascinating. Watching students with various disabilities being able to travel the world in minutes, is very uplifting. VR is definitely going to enable them to do a lot.”

 

On the part of teachers, VR helps them engage their students more comprehensively and provide them with a highly tempting learning environment, further assisting with communication skills especially when it comes to inclusive classrooms where teachers face one of the most challenging test of their jobs. Also facilitating an improved and much more organized form of interaction, VR enables the teachers to view live feed of what each student is looking at and discuss or ask questions about their experience and their personal focus. This is just the beginning for far more personalized learning opportunities for special needs students.

 

Evidently, engaging students with intellectual or other disabilities is not an easy task. The increasingly accessible and affordable virtual reality-based methods provide an ideal framework as an educational and training medium for them and developing their hidden talents into useful, practical strengths. No words can describe the happiness felt by the special children – and the satisfaction gained by the enablers – when their dreams come true through a simulated environment whether it is a dream to visit the pyramids, go for a hike on top of the highest mountains or just watch dinosaurs come alive from billions of years ago.

Next Generation Standalone Device: Lenovo Mirage Solo – ‘No Strings Attached’

Next Generation Standalone Device: Lenovo Mirage Solo – ‘No Strings Attached’

Presented as a complete VR learning solution, Lenovo Mirage Solo™ is raising the bar by adding an aesthetic and intelligent appeal to the Virtual Reality technology.

 

So what gives this device an extra edge over the other VR products?

Well, its flair can be attributed to the utility and convenience it comes with.

 

The new model by Lenovo is a self-contained bundle that does not require connectivity with a PC or a mobile phone to work. It is a standalone device that uses Google’s powerful WorldSense™ technology which allows it to lean, dodge, duck, move, avoid obstacles, offering interactive virtual reality experiences. The headset device gives an incredible 110-degree field of view and is claimed to present an ‘evolved’ version of VR. The device comes with a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, quite smart on the specifications.

 

Besides the headset, the bundle comprises a Lenovo Tab 4 PLUS 10” tablet which gives autonomy to the teachers to maneuver the VR experiences to control the VR sessions in class. The wireless touchscreen helps them choose the expeditions and discuss the customized lessons.

 

Every component of the kit makes this Lenovo standalone device a next-generation wearable device.

 

The robust array of apps and games available in a smartphone (which can be strapped to a headgear) has built enough fascination for VR technology. However, the provision of these features in Mirage, without the need of a supporting device, makes VR more realistic. Especially for education!

 

The blended learning environment delivering content-rich experiences can find great use in the Middle East economy. The education capacity and enrollment are growing in the region, which is also emerging in the use of ARVR in the classroom.

 

The IDC (International Data Corporation) report expects the Middle East and Africa market for augmented and virtual reality is likely to grow to $6 billion by 2020. Heads of states, innovators, academic influencers, and passionate teachers are taking steps to highlight the importance of tech-based economy.

 

In the wake of the burgeoning curiosity and passion for technology, ARVR conferences, developers’ meet-ups, and awareness drives are being conducted.

 

VRXOne, the Google Expeditions Middle East partner, has also launched the acclaimed Immersive Learning for School program in the region, taking a giant leap into VR. Distinguished for its reach and impact, the awareness drive is the biggest and most significant VR education program in ME. The program entitles 1 million expeditions to students in the Middle East schools. This gives an opportunity for scores of school children and teachers to realize the impact of VR in pedagogy.

 

Besides Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality is another highly beneficial and prospective technology and VRXOne is spreading awareness in the region about the newly launched AR Expeditions by Google.

 

There is a horde of new interesting features that AR expeditions offer.

The first amazing feature is the ability to draw the attention of the class towards a point of observation. The teacher can use the ‘spotlight feature’ to highlight the part of the object that is to be seen by the students. This spotlight may be a pinpoint or a floodlight.

 

Another spectacular feature is the ability to resize objects. Since different classrooms have different available spaces, there should ideally be an option to change the size of the object under observation – and Google offers just that. The teacher can resize instantly and the change will be propagated to all the connected student devices.

 

The next highlight of expeditions AR is that users can put down up to eight different objects around the space and the object will stand right on top of those physical markers (marked with different colors). The kids can view the same object with the same point of reference. The physical markers are a good method of giving the students a common point of reference.

 

The Solo Mode in AR is similar to VR and allows the students to read the explanatory information. So while the teacher is not around and the mode is activated, a note will pop up on the device screen, allowing the students the autonomy to independently explore.

 

A beautiful new AI and the holistic fun content make both – VR and AR expeditions a win.

Munfarid and MEL Science Strike a Deal to Promote Immersive Learning in the Region

Munfarid and MEL Science Strike a Deal to Promote Immersive Learning in the Region

Famous for its biggest Virtual Reality program for schools in the Middle East, Munfarid formally announced the partnership between their Virtual Reality program VRXOne and MEL Science for immersive learning. 

VRXOne is an immersive educational platform that takes the users into an immersive world with near-realistic 3D environment and motion captured based physical interactivity. The program has been widely acclaimed for its usability and benefits & was also mentioned at the Google IO 2018. VRXOne is the official partner for Google Expeditions in the Middle East region.

MEL Science, an education service focused on immersive learning through VR and hands-on experiments, has created a package of chemistry VR lessons equipped with “teacher mode”, that allows school teachers to use VR lessons in the classroom. This feature allows them to guide a classroom of students through a VR chemistry lesson. Rather than use slides or a whiteboard, the teacher can illustrate concepts with an immersive VR experience that puts students in a virtual lab where they can zoom down to the atomic level, fly through the molecular makeup of chemicals and even build their own atoms or molecules.

The alliance is intended to enhance their individual efforts at getting kids to enjoy their lessons through interactive learning. VRXOne and MEL Science are aimed to use virtual reality for making visual science more accessible for kids from the Middle East schools. The comprehensive hardware and software program, VRXOne will be promoting the lessons made available to them by the latter. Noteworthy to mention, VRXOne has also been involved in spreading awareness about the benefits of interactive learning through its ongoing ‘Go-to School’ program where 1 million Google expeditions are being demonstrated to the students in the Middle East.

Efforts are on the go to engage students full throttle and help them bridge their learning gaps. Researches have proved that creating visual scenarios while teaching had increased benefits than those accruing from verbal learning. Explaining STEM phenomena through interactive lessons improves learning without requiring any extra teaching hours. It leads to completeness and coherence in learning where students while staying abreast of the developments in lessons, can understand better.

Interactive learning with the help of technology has also shown to yield better results. Learning with the help of innovative technologies like Virtual Reality captures the student attention while inhibiting the distractions at learning. It also improves retention rates since the students are practically a part of the environment where learning happens.

The collaboration between the two enterprises focussed on education will accentuate the improving education scene in the region.

Dr. Sana Farid, the Co-Founder of Munfarid and a leading ARVR trainer and researcher was delighted at the partnership.

She expressed her views mentioning, “The pedagogical shift by means of interactive technology and ‘learn by doing’ methods is imperative to growth of the Middle East economy and its human resource development. Through consistent efforts and more awareness, we can help students across the globe realize the true potential of education, in both – developed and developing countries.”

 

About MEL Science

MEL Science is a London-based company developing a unique approach to science education: combining hands-on experiments with virtual reality, to explain the science behind those experiments. The company’s first product, MEL Chemistry, is a chemistry set for kids as a subscription service. Every month, the subscribers get new chemistry sets to do fun experiments with kids at home. Experiments are accompanied by a mobile app that makes it possible to see chemistry in VR. MEL Chemistry VR lessons are designed to completely remove outside distractions and provide students with a fully focused learning environment.

MEL Chemistry VR media kit: http://bit.ly/2JddGGo

MEL Chemistry VR website: https://melscience.com/vr

 

About VRXOne

VRXOne is an international brand for virtual reality distributed in the Middle East exclusively by Munfarid. It’s a learning platform that uses Virtual Reality in education and training. VRXOne products offer unparalleled performance for content’s delivery and control. VRXOne provides devices and head mounts and accepts content in virtually any format and resolution compatible with Virtual Reality. Users can unite all their content on a single platform and play it as desired on their VRXOne Kits.

VRXOne media kit: http://bit.ly/2kqWXS2

VRXOne website: https://www.vrxone.com

Google Expeditions Field Trip App Now Brings AR Tours, 100+ Lessons Available

Google Expeditions AR is here – a news of delight for AR aficionados.

Exactly one year ago, Google in its developers’ conference, IO 2017 had announced the launch of expeditions in Augmented Reality.

After 12 months of developments, testing, and improvements, Google has finally included the AR tech in its Google expeditions application. During this time, the developers at Google partnered with EdTech experts, teachers and students in different schools, taking their advice and feedback to perform the beta testing of this revolutionary technological advance.

The testing was carried under the AR pioneer program where over 1 million students participated enthusiastically.

So what if you are already using expeditions VR at your school?

Isn’t that enough immersion and/or insight?

Should you be excited?

Here’s a simple answer.

Decades ago, we used to have log tables to simplify and drastically speed up computation. Then came the calculators which simplified the process of understanding and reaching the results exponentially.

The technology behind a calculator and AR is poles apart.

However, they’re alike in a sense – they both make education easier.

So when a student embarks on a journey through Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, he dons a VR headset and looks around to feel the immersion.

It doesn’t matter whether he is a water enthusiast or not, he will be fascinated with the underwater journey along the largest living structure on the planet and one of the natural wonders of the world. Plunging into the awe-inspiring coral reef environment and meeting its fascinating marine creatures – and that too as a part of a classroom lesson – indeed ‘educating’.

Interestingly, through the window of AR, he can do more.

He can bring the corals to his classroom & pan at them closely.

Yes, Augmented Reality!

While Virtual Reality takes you anywhere, Augmented Reality brings you anything.

Imagine a family of corals gliding on your table?

Or maybe – some DNA strands scattered on the floor, where one can really get their comprehensive view. Even though the full-form is complicated, studying them won’t be.

Now that is wondrous.

 

So practically, now Google can take you to the world and also bring the world into the classroom. How cool is that!

The expeditions application which already has 6 million downloads and enlists 800+ VR expedition lessons, now has AR expeditions on the iOS and Android apps.

About 100+ available expeditions span from the topics of biology like RNA and DRA to significant concepts of physics like electromagnetism.

To experience the all round, panoramic view of AR, one needs ARCore or an ARKit-compatible phone.