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.
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
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
The Google IO 2018 consummated last week where benefits of intelligent technologies were trumpeted in the best way possible. With over 7,000 developers present, the program was also live-streamed by millions of people in different time zones who were eyeing over the company’s key announcements. The effects of the major developments can still be profoundly felt with many still in awe of the whirlwind progress in technology at Google.
A very special segment hosted by Benjamin Schrom, Product Manager at Google for Expeditions, highlighted the very important area of technologies that facilitate learning and form the pavement of immersive computing – Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
Both the technologies are improving pedagogy and Schrom explained why these technologies are so imperative to learning.
In his own words,
‘Virtual Reality’ can take you anywhere and ‘Augmented Reality’ can bring you anything.
While sharing the company’s vision for improving education, he acknowledged the efforts of the partners who offer Virtual Reality kits and expand the reach of the ‘Google for Education’ program. Out of the 10 partners showcased, VRXOne was the Middle East partner, responsible for bringing 1 Million Virtual Reality Expeditions for the students in the Middle East.
Combining abstracted textual and verbal cues coming from books, videos, and lectures with a fluid demonstration through the Virtual Reality technology, VRXOne is a product of Munfarid Consulting, a Bahraini Learning & Development company founded by the famous AR VR trainer and influencer, Dr. Sana Farid.
With sustained efforts and credible partnerships with leaders in innovation, VRXOne is being used to make an impact on the world of tomorrow. Its mention at the Google IO 2018 is a matter of pride and accomplishment for the region. It also clearly explains the efforts in the region by emerging companies to boost STEM learning and using innovation to the long-term vision of benefitting businesses, boosting entrepreneurship, and strengthening the economy.
With Virtual Reality being at the helm of education now at many government-owned schools, colleges as well as private institutions, other factors like boosting STEM learning, setting up innovation centers like the recent one at the UAE University campus, have further revitalized the shared goal towards enhanced skills in the students. It is the small steps towards innovation that make a nation and its citizens stand tall.
Determined entrepreneurs are reshaping the Middle East economy by building an Arab tech economy. Defeating the barriers by developing a growing local taste for technology, companies like Souq.com and Careem have channeled their potential and energy to drive growth.
In the Middle East, something path-breaking is happening, driving the world to honor its potential – be it the Amazon’s fondness for Souq, or be it the VRXOne’s mention at the Google IO 2018.
The stability and prosperity of a country depend on many things, but the ones that stand out the most powerfully are employment and education. The Middle East vision dwells on marshaling all available resources, keeping diverse perspectives, while eyeing the same goal to harness these two areas. The focus is on the development of first-rate education, imbibing technology to harness processes, and encouraging the youth to identify their skills and helping them foray into entrepreneurship.
For this, the governments in the region are taking calculated, carefully navigated, and deliberate efforts. Mentionable steps include the establishment of an Innovation Center at the UAE University campus and a recent ministerial directive by the Bahrain education minister of acknowledging high-performing private schools and granting them numerous benefits in different forms. In Oman, the government is determined to build Smart Cities based on innovative technologies and applications and is taking required steps. The purpose of these investments is that the future generations grow and the region continues to enjoy social and economic stability.
The efforts are visible, and the results too. The latest validation comes straight from California that saw the launch and wrap of the Google IO 2018, the tech giant’s annual developers meeting. The event marked by the attendance of over 7,000 developers witnessed major exciting announcements, the key highlight being intelligent technologies. Millions of viewers from all over the world who live-streamed the program on Google Events website were convinced – penetration of technologies in their lives is going to make processes so smooth that it is awe-inspiring.
The takeaways from the introductory keynote by CEO Sundar Pichai are being heavily shared by the netizens and the excitement is ample enough to behold. The seemingly unreal yet true announcements include Google Assistant being developed to make real calls to a person and Google Photos getting the colorizing feature to convert black and white photos to colored with ‘one-click’.
In a special segment, the host Benjamin Schrom, Product Manager at Google for Expeditions, Google Apps for Education, Google Forms and other educational endeavors, highlighted the very important area of technologies that facilitate learning and form the pavement of immersive computing – Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
With a slew of new features to the Google Expeditions, the following were the takeaways:
- One can make their own VR Tour using imagery from 360-degree photos and Google’s Street View
- Google Expeditions AR has arrived, over 100 AR expeditions launched in different subjects
- Google Expeditions New extensive and User-Friendly Interface updated with a better interface for self-guided tours
- Experience Google Expeditions through rich, scalable, hardware & OS Agnostic Mode for improved access & viewability (now available in Chromebooks too)
In Schrom’s own words,
‘Virtual Reality’ can take you anywhere and ‘Augmented Reality’ can bring you anything.’
Besides explaining the new features coming to Google for Education products like Expeditions, G Suite, Google Slides, and Chromebooks, he appreciated the efforts of Google expeditions partners for widening the reach of the program in their respective regions and introducing cloud-based learning at schools and colleges.
The segment highlighted VRXOne, the Google Expeditions partner for Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, responsible for bringing 1 Million Virtual Reality Expeditions to the students across regions. Revolutionizing the face of learning and development technologies in the region as well as internationally, VRXOne is a pioneer & certified Google Expeditions partner, offering intelligent technology solutions interweaved with corporate and economic vision.
Combining abstracted textual and verbal cues coming from books, videos, and lectures with a fluid demonstration through the Virtual Reality technology, VRXOne is a product of Munfarid, a Learning & Development company founded by AR VR trainer and influencer, Dr. Sana Farid.
VRXOne is a critically acclaimed Virtual Reality expeditions kit that has been adopted in different schools, colleges, companies and has also been demonstrated to high dignitaries of different countries.
With sustained efforts and credible partnerships with leaders in innovation, VRXOne is being used to make an impact on the world of tomorrow. Its mention at the Google IO 2018 is a matter of great pride and accomplishment for the region.
Acknowledgment of successful Middle East businesses at the global level mark the nodal points of the region’s prosperity. It can be said that the Technology Plan for the region is suited to meet the vision for development.
As the Virtual Reality continues to grow and emerge, the pool of VR tech companies and ventures continues to expand as well. The future potential of VR technology has opened up countless venues for the tech companies to identify and capture the market opportunities. However, at the moment, the VR hardware remains at the center of it all to give it a greater push in making it a commercially viable technology.
Among the giants, Homido is a well-respected, internationally recognized name in the field of Virtual Reality. Headquartered in Lille, North of France, Homido specializes in mobile app development, 3D cinema, product design, manufacturing and logistics. Homido offers cutting-edge VR headsets in three different categories called Homido V2, Homido Grab, Homido Mini.
Homido V2 and Homido GRAB are wireless VR headsets for smartphones (Android & iOS), with 100 degrees FOV (Field of View), a built-in action button that makes it possible to operate the smart phone without having to remove it from the viewer as well as a transparent front which makes them compatible for Augmented Reality Apps. V2 also features adjustable focal settings and a repositionable foam band that ensures optimal comfort and support for lengthy use. Grab is comparatively compact and lightweight, and a certified Google Cardboard. Homido Mini is an amazing little handy product – compact, affordable, adjustable and extremely convenient VR glasses that are ideal for experiencing VR anywhere, anytime.
Homido will be joining VRXOne for taking Google Expeditions to schools in the Middle East region as well. In the UK, Homido has already been involved with Expeditions (link). Homido Grab headsets will be part of the Virtual Reality kits used for the program in the classrooms.
Moreover, fortunately for VR enthusiasts in the Middle East, they will now be able to enjoy these amazing VR gadgets as Homido products will very soon be available in the ME market. Spurred by governmental pursuit of green technologies as well as renewed corporate focus for innovation, the Middle East is one of the fastest growing and most promising region for Virtual Reality, in gaming, enterprise applications and, increasingly, in edu-tech as well. As per the regional sources, only the MENA computer gaming market accounts for almost US1.5bn, and is expected to keep growing at a rapid rate, attracting most of the revenues from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. (link)
Top Virtual Reality Apps
Let us now look at some of the top VR apps, compatible with Google Cardboard, which can be explored for education purposes using Homido headsets.
Google Expeditions is a virtual reality teaching tool that lets you lead or join immersive virtual trips all over the world — get up close with historical landmarks, dive underwater with sharks, even visit outer space. Built for the classroom and small group use, Google Expeditions allows a teacher acting as a “guide” to lead classroom-sized groups of “explorers” through collections of 360° and 3D images while pointing out interesting sights along the way.
Unimersiv is one of the largest platforms for VR educational experiences. By downloading the app, you will have access to multiple experiences that will let you learn about history, space or the human anatomy.
The Discovery VR app has always been about driving curiosity – exploring new places, characters and ideas. With VR videos, Discovery embraces a new opportunity to tell these amazing stories immersing you in experiences like never before. We’re excited about what virtual reality will show us, and we’ll be adding new content regularly.
Sites in VR
Virtual tours of landmarks from Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Kuwait, Yemen, Macedonia, Holland, Belgium, France and Space. Examine the marvels of Islamic architecture, visit mosques, tombs, palaces of sultans, museums, inns, baths, castles, towers, old houses, squares, parks, nature, religious sites, ancient cities, space and other places with more than a thousand 360 degree panoramic images in high quality
InMind 2 is an adventure game which places emphasis on the chemistry behind human emotion, greatly inspired by the Pixar/Disney movie “Inside Out” and (more scientifically) Lövheim’s theory of emotions. You’ll take part in the process of one teenager named John becoming an adult, and help shape John’s future self, while experiencing an exciting journey inside the human brain.
Bringing the arts to life through innovative VR technology. Boulevard is reshaping the landscape of storytelling and revolutionizing the way the world looks at art and culture.
VirtualSpeech – Public Speaking VR
The VirtualSpeech app helps you practice your public speaking, interview skills, sales, networking and mindfulness, by providing immersive virtual reality environments to train in.
Create and animate your own virtual worlds. Add coding to your creations in the companion web app and watch your worlds come to life, even in virtual reality.
Titans of Space
An interactive way to teach your students about the solar system, Titans of Space provides an in-depth tour of planets and stars in the galaxy. With great music and entertaining visuals, it makes learning about the solar system much more exciting.
A unique and totally immersive learning experience, using Anatomyou is like taking a non-invasive trip inside the human body to learn more about its various systems (i.e. respiratory, digestive, circulatory and more).