Standalone Virtual Reality Headsets: Inside The Parallel World of Immersive Technologies

Standalone Virtual Reality Headsets: Inside The Parallel World of Immersive Technologies

The notion of existence of parallel worlds or universes has intrigued mankind for a long time and we keep trying to find a passageway into those mysterious worlds. While those efforts are still underway and have yet to see any success, we already have the virtual world in our access with increasing control through the use of immersive technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality or both, 

 

This virtual world gives us complete control in a simulated environment and lets us be more creative and experimental with what is possible. This ability to control, experiment, learn and apply, is transforming the classroom experience all around the world. There is nothing better to make a child become more focused and learn better than by transporting them to a wonder world. As of now, this is the impact that these immersive virtual experiences are having on young minds where the two worlds of imagination and knowledge meet together.

 

What’s more exciting is that the technical and hardware limitations are also being progressively overcome by premium tech companies such as HTC, and we are able to do more within these virtual environments without breaking contact with the outside world. Dr. Sana Farid, the ARVR & Ai Strategist and Co-founder & CEO of VRXOne, has been taking HTC VIVE to classrooms all over Middle East, and has talked about her experience saying, “We have found HTC to be a game-changing experience in VR education. It has been a great experience exploring the potential of experiential learning and bringing classroom lessons to life with VIVE and the highly immersive platform of Lifeliqe, and we are hoping that the VR education will become still more enhanced in future.” Making school lessons fun and exciting, Lifeliqe is a visual learning platform that offers an extensive range of digital curriculum including highly interactive 3D as well as AR, VR and MR models designed for STEM learning.

Going back to the hardware, HTC VIVE FOCUS, the world’s first standalone virtual reality headset, actually packs some great updates to that end including smartphone integration which enables us to receive calls, messages and even view social media notifications within the FOCUS VR interface without having to take off the headset. Additionally, we have more control via FOCUS with the inclusion of gesture recognition, greater Depth of Field (6DoF) and better battery life as well as the Passenger and Surroundings modes. The ‘Passengers’ mode lets us enjoy a seated VR experience without tracking constraints whereas ‘Surrounding’ mode lets us view our surrounding real world through the Focus camera which means we don’t have to remove the headset every time we need to do something outside of the virtual world.

Alvin Wang Graylin, the China President of Vive at HTC, certainly has a bright vision for the VR future, “Standalone is a trend that will become the mass market product”, adding further he said, “I believe that VR can change the world.”

Indeed, standalone devices will have a big impact on the VR market increasing the overall accessibility and usability of the technology. As per the Technovio’s Market Research Report the global virtual reality market in education sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 59% until 2022 whereas the VR gear in education market is expected to reach $1,060.87 million in 2021. These are huge statistics for VR market and we certainly can’t wait for VR technology to become mainstream in education.

Immersive Learning – Creating A Nexus for Knowledge Based Economy

Immersive Learning – Creating A Nexus for Knowledge Based Economy

Change is probably one of the most powerful and inevitable phenomena in the world. Someone once said – teachers change the world one child at a time. This statement really sheds light on the influential role of teachers in the life of nations. But today, in this particular time, teachers have added responsibility beyond their traditional role as instructors, mentors, and resource providers. Today they also have to assume the role as leading facilitators for pioneering and affecting modern ed-tech practices and immersive learning in the classrooms.

 

In view of which, the Ministry of Education, UAE, is presenting various programmes across the year for teachers’ training in Ajman Teachers’ Training Institute, focusing on STREAM education approach and state-of-the-art learning facilitation practices in schools. The objective of such platforms is to instill a culture of innovation and a sense of entrepreneurship in the Emirati teachers in addition to promoting STREAM based education and community partnership.

Speakers and trainers would deliver invaluable exercises and discussions in practices and methodologies to boost research and creative competencies of teachers expanding upon their central role in preparing a generation that can nourish the growth and expanse of knowledge based economy in the Middle East by way laying the groundwork for integration of STREAM approach as well as linking STREAM schools with universities and ultimately labor markers.

 

Considered a key to sustainable leadership and innovative practices in a changing world, STREAM education is perceived as a crucial catalyst for accelerated socio-economic and ecological growth and development in the age of 4th industrial revolution. In that regard, the UAE teachers are exposed to exclusive opportunities to receive substantial training in implementing the ways to promote student learning, participation and entrepreneurial aptitudes through creative practices – from employing innovative STREAM education approaches to immersive ed-tech technologies in the classroom.

 

One of the highly acknowledged trainers in the Ministry of Education, UAE, coming from Bahrain, is Dr. Sana Farid, a pioneer ARVR & Ai Strategist, Research Analyst, Coach and Entrepreneur. Contributing to conduct training session in implementation of innovation and technology in learning practices in view of STREAM approach to education. Previously receiving the Award of Appreciation from the UAE Ministry of Education, in appreciation to train large scale of nearly 10,000 teachers for immersive technologies in the classroom, Dr. Sana is the President & Ambassador Women of Wearables MENA, Co-Chair VRAR Association MENA and one of the World Top 101 Women in ARVR.

Bearing in mind, how the training in STREAM approach and experience in immersive technologies is expected to raise a self-motivated and highly skilled generation for optimum attainment of a knowledge based economy, His Excellency Dr. Hussain Al Hammadi, the UAE for Minister of Education, commented, “To instill a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the students of primary education schools and to provide a specialized environment that embraces students’ initiatives in innovative aspects is one of the most important requirements of STREAM education.” [link] For this reason, the fourth session of the Forum was dedicated to encouraging and promoting practical applications driving the management of innovative practices and projects based on STREAM education which could then further attract the interest of local and international sponsors for forging relations, potential partnerships and accreditations within educational communities.

Bridging the Gap for Teachers to Improve Innovation in the Classroom

Bridging the Gap for Teachers to Improve Innovation in the Classroom

With the recent developments in the Middle East, it isn’t difficult to see what the future looks like for the region. And the reason for this foresight is the way immersive and innovative technologies are being channeled into the very fabric of the society. To quote the words of the driving force behind the shining bright face of UAE, the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, “Our goal in the UAE is to shape the future… We have a ministry, future accelerators, national plan and passion to succeed.” And certainly, His Highness is determinedly connecting all the dots and filling all the voids in the process.

 

Since the modern education technology is based on experience-based learning and real time performance assessment, this not only requires retraining of teachers but also their active involvement more than ever before. Luckily, the government of UAE is well-aware of this challenge and the Ministry of Education has taken many initiatives to address this issue. With the Qudwa – Global Teachers’ Forum, Teachers Forum, and the Arab Gulf Teachers Forum at Ajman Teachers’ Training Institute.

 

The Arab Teachers’ Training forum is another cog in the chain of projects to help introduce modern educational and teaching strategies and the mechanisms for their successful implementation within the current schooling system. The objective of the event is to communicate ways to help build a competitive and comprehensive learning environment and specifically, redefining the role of teachers and develop and improve their performance and contribution in order to garner the desired positive outcomes from schooling systems in the UAE.

 

Innovation in education has become a global phenomenon today where new approaches to classroom learning are fundamentally transforming the long-standing learning methodologies in the teaching profession. The new slant will not only transfigure the way students are taught in classroom but also introduce advanced techniques for the way teachers prepare for the new curriculum.

 

As Virtual Reality technology is being introduced in schools in the Middle East, such  event provide a great opportunity for the teachers to experience VR technology. Whereas, the leading VR education program – VRXOne is bringing the technology to classrooms through 1 million Virtual Reality lessons with Google Expeditions, [News]. Educating teachers about integrating edtech tools in the classroom empowers them to upgrade the conventional learning system.

Google Expeditions has a “Guide” mode that teachers can use to prepare their lessons and to enhance their understanding of how best to go about a virtual tour prior to a classroom lesson. The acclaimed VR/AR/Ai Strategist, Speaker and Entrepreneur, Dr. Sana Farid, is conducting training session in VR-based education and implementation of VR technology in classrooms and empowering thousands of teachers across the region.

 

Thanks to VR edtech, the teachers and students can be trained pretty much simultaneously, saving valuable transition time as well as redefine classroom experience and create an innovative learning environment that will bridge that technology-inspired communication gap between student-teacher relationship.

Middle East Through the Lens of Full Scale Immersive Technologies

Middle East Through the Lens of Full Scale Immersive Technologies

I still remember being hit by a wave of fantasy and wonder the first time I saw Tom Cruise’s character John Anderton in ‘Minority Report’, tapping into the holographic overlays of his family memories in life-sized images that seem to just spring to life magnificently in the middle of the room. And then the 3D depiction of the character’s wife was something else too. It was not the first movie I saw that made use of such technological innovation but it was certainly one of the most powerful ones.

Today, however, we are seeing the realization of much more amazing and far more advanced immersive technologies being unfolded in the real world that are well poised to take the entire world by storm. As a matter of fact, they already have. Just a few years back what we could only read about in the pages of the books or experience by way of sci-fi movies, is all within grasp today. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are indeed changing the dynamics of the world around us. Many industries have already been experimenting with these technologies mainly using them for training purposes but now these disruptive technologies are all set to go mainstream.

As the world continues to embrace these remarkable technologies, Middle East has become one of the fastest growing AR/VR emerging markets. Not only that, the region is also attracting entrepreneurs, experts and businesses from all over the world in attempts to be in the middle of the action. UAE has been hosting many consecutive events where the professionals, startups and technologists have just been pouring in experiencing and taking part in the technological transformation of the region. The government has a set socio-economic agenda where the future is led by these innovative technologies of VR, AR and Ai (artificial intelligence).

Following suit, many industries have made heavy investments into implementing AR/VR into their business models. The idea is to improve processes, methods and consumer engagement by connecting operational data and human experience. Both, virtual and augmented realities leverage much the similar technology, mainly tracking to follow the head movements of the user and create realistic virtual imaging accordingly. And while the potential is visibly obvious for virtually any type of business, healthcare is one of the most influenced and most rapidly transformed by these technologies. As the research findings by the Lumus Vision point out, the healthcare industry will have reached a whopping $5.1 billion by 2025, followed by engineering close behind with $4.7 billion. According to the International Data Corporation, the Middle East and Africa market is expected to achieve a huge growth soaring to a massive $6 billion by 2020 for augmented and virtual reality.

But other sectors are fast catching up. For example, food industry is beginning to adopt the AR/VR technology in order to create creative and innovative pre-purchase customer experiences. One such example is of the startup Kabaq, intending to lead the immersive experiences for restaurants by introducing the first ever augmented reality menu. Using the Custom Snapchat World Lenses, Bareburger is one of the first restaurants to offer the AR menu for their consumers at locations in the U.S. as well as Dubai – where customers are able to view their meals from every angle before placing an order.

However, this disruptive transformation is much more monumental in education sector where the students, teachers, educationists and institutes are experiencing a whole new world of possibilities set in motion for creative learning techniques and educational opportunities. Following Emirati school-going students, students at Sharjah University have started to learn in depth about the applications in ARVR, by the distinguished ARVR Strategist and Simulation Expert, Dr. Sana Farid.

The Women of Wearables President MENA, Co-Chair VRAR Association UAE, and one of the top women in VRAR Worldwide Ranking – was hosted by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center – Sheraa,  to speak about Virtual Reality, its applications in the corporate sector, related prospective growth sectors and emerging market trends as well as the utilization of the most impressive and engaging technologies aimed at reshaping the business policies in the light of future trends.

Likewise, other B2B and consumer-oriented businesses see the potential for growth in adopting AR/VR technologies aiming to contribute to successful customer engagement strategies including multi-sensory engagement, intellectual engagement and emotional connections. Grand examples are Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier Etihad Airways and Dubai’s real estate giant Jumeirah Group, two of the major Gulf brands adopting VR technology in order to create immersive customer experiences and promote their products and services. [Article]

As the awareness of these technologies grows among the public, this is not just what the businesses want to delve into, but also what the customers expect to see now. And while we may only just be beginning to see the tip of the iceberg by way of the potential that these technologies exhibit for future, AR and VR are already changing the face of the industries from entertainment to healthcare, from engineering to education, and from combat training to corporate world. And the important thing now is to join this evolution devising ways to build more holistic applications for AR and VR into the new business models and strategies.

 

Imagination Come Alive at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018

Imagination Come Alive at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018

Described as “Sharjah’s gift to the world” by Ahmad Al Ameri, the chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) is certainly a huge gift wrapped in a world of fun, delight and learning for the young members of the society. 10 days of activity, amazement and creativity at the Expo Centre Sharjah, the 10th edition of the SCRF was inaugurated by His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, the UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

 

Following the festival theme “Your Future Just a Book Away”, as 134 local and foreign publishers, and 286 authors, poets and other literary guests join to add colors to this outstanding cultural festival, with over 50,000 children are being led through some 2,600 events and activities spanned over 11 days of the festival. SCRF 2018 offers a series of interactive and creative activities, sessions and workshops for the young learners under the main theme of Kids Activities, Cultural Programs, Social Media Café, Cultural Café, Kids’ Creative Café as well as Cookery Corner. The event further comprises many distinctive features including 3D Books workshop, Pop-up Books Exhibitions, Future Machine Exhibition, SCRF mascots and a cooking competition called “Little Chef” for children aged from 6-10 and 11-16 years.

 

Sheikh Sultan personally toured the different displays, workshops and exhibition halls adorned with a vast collection of printed as well as digital publications and learning materials by local, regional and international publishing houses and organizations. During his visit, he also viewed and appreciated the Children’s Books Illustrations, where 104 illustrators contributed their 355 artworks from 32 countries, including 12 Emirati and 29 illustrators from other Arab countries.

 

Sheikh Sultan commended the illustrators for their contributions in capturing children’s imagination to help develop their interest in reading. Illustrators that stood out receiving exhibition awards from Sheikh Sultan were Rasa Jansiawiskit (Lithuania) with first prize, Yang Park (South Korea) with second position and ranking third was Mariana Pedraza hailing from Mexico.

 

Further at the books exhibition the SCRF Awards 2018 were awarded to authors with Dr. Ibrahim Shalabi and Sonia Al Nimr receiving the Arabic Young Adult Book Award, targeting children 13 to 17 years of age, for their books “Wasim Tours” and “Thunderbird” respectively, while the International Children’s Book Award was presented to Michelle Zilkoski as well as Mariam Saqr Al Qasimi for her book “Where the Letters Disappeared?”. Author Nahed Al Shawwa scored the award for the Best Arabic Children’s Book (age group 4 – 12 years) for her book “One Dream or Two”. The Sharjah Police Science Academy also received an award for their work for the visually impaired children.

 

This year  Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018 features specialized spaces not much different from labs for children’s activities aimed at instilling a deeper sense of interactive exchange with kids. The children have the opportunity to experience several different learning techniques meant to provoke creative interest in them and develop it further with the help of innovative approaches. For instance, at the Future Machine Exhibition, children are being familiarized with new age digital models and replicas developed on the principles of artificial intelligence whereas the Fun Robotics Centre introduces them to stimulating workshops to help children as well as adults develop their knowledge and skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mechanics.

 

Then there is the 3D Books Exhibition that brings back the ancient art of pop-up books to children filling their minds with wonder and, the 3D art workshop held by Italian children’s book publisher Matteo Faglia further helps intrigue their imagination by teaching them how to turn a simple piece of paper into a 3D pop-up. While over at the Social Media Café, guiding about the use of new-world social media platforms, the children are being educated about their safe and useful application in daily life.

 

Moving on, children have some real amazement and excitement in store in the form of virtual reality and augmented reality interactive sessions at the VRXOne led by CEO, Dr. Sana Farid. The workshop seems to attract a huge crowd of young as well as adult visitors as the children are guided through different Google Expeditions exploring the virtual worlds of biology, geology and world travels. Their excitement and interest piques up as their actions translate into response by virtual objects.

 

The festival also features a series of Arab and foreign theatrical performances combining education with entertainment including the virtual reality illusion show by famous Japanese visual artist Hara Hiroki, showcasing the latest in fusion magic and holographic illusionary art.

 

As the SCRF continues to go on capturing the attention of the youth, enlightening them on the importance of book reading and the various creative and innovative conventional and modern learning techniques, the event has still a lot to offer over the next few days promising great excitement, entertainment and learning.