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.
The trajectory of Virtual Reality technology has traveled far, and quite literally, over the boundaries.
While lessening the barriers and paving way for worthwhile developments, VR has found usage in a multitude of fields namely education, healthcare, aviation, real estate, travel, training, therapy, etc. Since the time of its inception to today, when it is on the cusp of a breakout, every development in the field has been termed as a major hit. Call it the obsession of tech evangelists or their overwhelming theistic belief, VR has given many hopes to innovation. It would not be wrong to quote that today, Virtual Reality has proven its power by gripping the minds and showing us its practical worth.
Allowing complete immersion & engagement, VR is touted as a development that is pro-innovation. As per many, it pumps up productivity and enables autonomous development. Interestingly, Google Expeditions VR’s mission is quite aligned with this belief – to transmute every child into a discoverer, capable of independent learning. The application that uses cardboard and stunning panoramic stills, captures the users’ minds and completely involves them.
Introduced in 2015, Google Expeditions have been recognized as a productive Edtech tool. Its app incorporates background information to help the students and teachers taking the tour. The tutor can guide the students throughout the field trips using an easy to use interface on a tablet. They can also manage multiple screens at a time and review the student login and screen.
By offering virtual tours to different places, Google brings ‘the world into the classroom’. Partnering with different VR companies across the world, the tech giant is determined to increase the reach of this application and benefit maximum students. Its Middle East partner Munfarid goes an extra mile with its ‘go to school program’, a VR awareness program aimed at conducting 1 million expeditions in the Middle East. The Expeditions are being demonstrated with the Virtual Reality kit VRXOne.
Amongst the various lessons available on expeditions, a particular field trip to Antarctica is very interesting. Here, the students get to understand fauna of the place better through a concise 3-D virtual trip. They learn about penguin colonies, leopard seals, Ernest Shackleton’s explorations, and much more. While the students are drenched in a virtual experience, they also move their heads, attempting to capture the full view of the place. They react and move their body in anticipation of what happens next. Deep immersion like this helps many children find their true passion and pursue their interests in the field. It is only a technology like VR that can engage every student, also those whose attention is hard to get, or the ones who struggle with information retention. It is a journey of discovery coupled with the righteous implementation of textbook learning.
Impressively, there are many places that students and teachers can now visit through Google Expeditions. The Ann Frank House, the Great Wall of China, Palace of Versailles and Romeo and Juliet’s Verona are some major hits.
Also one of the most amusing places, as per students, is the field trip to Mars. The pictures have real depth. Rocks and cliffs projected out towards the user. The immersion is enhanced by shadows that seem real enough across the surface of Mars. With so many organizations working for space research and exploration, this field trip enthuses the students and instills curiosity to learn more in the minds of budding space fans.
Also, talking about innovation & discovery, we cannot skip mentioning a major news coming straight from the land of seven emirates.
UAE seeks Red.
The country is gearing up to put its foot on Mars.
A huge investment by the government and its lookout for brilliant minds to make this mission a success talks volumes about the enthusiasm and passion for this space mission. This came off as a major highlight of the UAE Innovation month that was observed in February. The maiden Martian mission is named ‘Hope’. News reports suggest that an amount of 20 billion dirhams ($5.4 billion) has been invested in the UAE Mars Mission and the government is also building a Dh500-million Mars Science city. Tests will be conducted to examine the possibilities of food, energy, water, and agricultural on the planet.
If successful, the impact of this mission will be massive. A strong development will give a major push to the quest for life on another planet. That will probably be a ‘discovery of the century’.
At the same time, it intrigues me to think about the impact it will have on the existing Google Expeditions’ Mars field trip. Would it have stills of people walking around on Mars? Would we see man-made sources of energy there? Maybe too early to imagine, yet quite amusing.
The notion of immersive experiences and barrier-free learning is formed of numerous building blocks. Important parts of this notion are EdTech and the technologies supporting it. When Virtual Reality expeditions were launched in the Google I/O 2015, people anxiously waited to try their hands on the much awaited VR experiences. Since then, more and more studies have established the power of immersion in VR.
What is the real value of VR for education? Well, the answer revolves around the benefits of this groundbreaking technology. When one dons a headset, all physical connections to the real world are suspended and a student is immersed in an engaging 3D scene.
Virtual Reality field trips have kicked off a big growth wave. Leading this drive of EdTech in Middle East is a Virtual Reality trainer and Women of Wearable’s President and Ambassador for the region, Dr. Sana Farid. A pioneer ARVR strategist in MENA, Dr. Sana is working to fulfill her long-term vision, i.e. to nurture an inclusive society with high education standards.
Under her leadership, Middle East region is witnessing the ‘Go-To School’ Program, a pioneer program reinforcing the idea of ‘one-on-one learning’. It is a tech awareness drive allowing the Middle East schools to experience demo Virtual Reality Expeditions with the Google-powered VRXOne. The demo sessions will teleport the students to interactive field trips. The engaging experience of these trips permits the students to leave the classroom periphery and learn through the tours of landmarks. Dr. Sana and her team are toiling relentlessly so that maximum students can reap exponential benefits from the engaging virtual experiences of VR.
Through her ongoing research and experience in EdTech, Dr. Sana understands the influence of reality technologies on student learning and pedagogical practices. The Go-To School program by her which kicked off in the last quarter of 2017 in Dubai has been acknowledged by all the participating schools. Teachers have reported visible signs of development in students, major improvement areas being ‘knowledge retention’ and ‘student engagement’. This is feasible through 100% engagement and attention capture which is possible through the high immersion in Virtual Reality.
Elaborating about her belief in the technology Dr. Sana says,”The world of VR is entertaining. We get that validation every day from students we meet in different schools. The amusement and excitement they show towards field trips make us more optimistic about VR. It can transmute a simple classroom into a fun-filled & productive classroom where every student thrives. The program is receiving great response from kids, and their teachers who see a notable improvement in their students’ learning graph.”
The Go To School Program is pronounced to be one of the foremost large-scale programs in the region for EdTech. The program spreads a clear message that the implementation of Virtual Reality in classroom is now possible and very much realistic.
If it’s been long while you’ve had a tete-a-tete with science, this might just be the perfect time. A time when technology seeks wider scope than ever. Often perceived as entirely discrete, Technology and Humanities have only walked hand in hand. With grand new pronouncements and evidences of application, new innovations are vying for your attention.
But there’s something that doesn’t have to.
Every big economy has allocated a special budget to it. Mars Mission is in vogue.
The latest development comes from UAE where the government seeks talent acquisition through its Space Settlement Challenge. The Space Settlement Challenge looks for ‘innovative high-risk, high-reward projects that would be difficult to fund otherwise’. While this might seem to be an uncanny description to many, it actually speaks volumes about UAE government’s penchant for innovative ideas.
The Mission sparks an encouraging renaissance in the already confident space program by UAE.
Noah Raford will oversee the challenge and is also currently serving as the chief operating officer and futurist-in-chief at the Dubai Future Foundation. The far-fetched vision behind the program becomes evident when Noah describes the country’s keen-eyed aspirations:
“It’s not just engineering solutions. We’re looking for social scientists, designers, and artists to tackle not just the infrastructural issues around space settlement, but also the business models that are going to help us get off planet.”
The UAE government has planned for the Mars spacecraft to arrive on the planet’s surface in 2021. The year has been strategically planned to coincide with the country’s 50th foundation anniversary. The mission is thoughtfully named’ Hope’ – inducing optimism for a new place for human life.
With such trumpeting missions and the ongoing hustle for space projects, it now seems that a common man can ‘practically’ start wondering about how life on the Mars would be. Interestingly, UAE has also confirmed that it aspires to create a colony on the Red Planet by 2117.
But maybe we don’t have to wait that long.
Perhaps we don’t have to fantasize this scenario since many schools kids are actually living it!
Maybe we should explain.
We’re talking about the Google Expeditions and its highly popular field trip to Mars. When we reflect on the idea of Mars mission, it would be a sin to skip mentioning the pioneering efforts by Google to bring Mars in the classroom.
Students worldwide are using cardboard to tour Mars through Virtual Reality. This particular field trip was a strong bet by Google in mainstreaming VR and inducing enthusiasm in kids towards space. The trip shows the terrain on Mars in real depth. The rocks and cliffs are projected out towards the user. The shadows over the surface make the interface even more realistic.
Students who have experienced a trip to Mars by means of Virtual Reality talk eagerly about their experiences. Their young minds are swayed as they walk on Mars, tilt their heads, and examine the space around.
Education is the ‘tipping point’ that will make Virtual Reality a rage amongst the masses.
Interestingly, Middle East is recently witnessing staggering advancements in the development of autonomous technologies.
A fair share of this progression is attributed to Google & its efforts in deepening the roots of wearable technology in the region. The tech giant is offering field trips in the ME with the Virtual Reality kit VRXOne.
Google’s Middle East partner for field trips, Munfarid goes on to stress the effect of VR with a ‘go to school program’ – a VR awareness program aspiring to demonstrate 1 million expeditions in the Middle East. Amongst the many field trips being shown through this ongoing program, the ones that are fondly reviewed by the students are of Mars and Antarctica. While this VR trip enhances the students’ curiosity towards space, it also generates a will for them to take up astro-science as an option.
It won’t be wrong to make this statement. Mars mission has taken the world by storm. Also, it has given the hope of stepping on a new celestial body other than the moon.
So is there long time ahead when we’d actually step on the Mars?
Sure. But have we already progressed enough to virtually step on it? Absolutely!
It is the small steps towards innovation that make a nation and its citizens stand tall. Google Innovation Hub is a fair and innovative program that inspires the youth to transmute their tech obsessions into a successful business. Developed last year, the program is functional in the premises of the UAE University campus. Interestingly, this is one of the many endeavors undertaken by the UAE Government with focus on student well-being. With a special focus on STEM subjects and a “First-Rate Education” scheme to revamp education in curriculum & professional development, UAE gears to accomplish its Vision 2021.
Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Education Council and Chancellor of UAE University shared his perspective and aspirations about the Google Innovation Hub UAE.
“The excessive use of mobile devices by our children is clear, but is it the right kind of use? With this center we want it to become the right kind of use.
We are proud to have a platform that enables students to interact with the future technology, not only the existing one, and not only by learning at schools.”
Students in the age group 8-24 visit the innovation and development center to gain knowledge on building robots, developing Android apps, and more.
The Google translate and the search engine app Go Google are based on Machine Learning, one of the key tech trends that the innovation hub seeks to promote. The Maker Space section of the hub is to impart teaching of 3D printing, laser cutting, and robotics.
There’s a growing rage for Virtual Reality, to promote which, coding in virtual reality using Google Cardboard is taught in the App Factory. One of the fervent promoters of Virtual Reality (the choicest tech trend) Google brings Google Expeditions to the Middle East. In the preceding year, Google stroke a partnership deal to strengthen its hold in the MENA region, and to become a contributor to technological progress in the Gulf. VRXOne is the partner for Google Expedition in MENA. It is a program designed to transform education through convenient & innovative Virtual Reality solutions through rich, in-depth experiences.
As stated by Google, the innovation hub is a place for young innovators who must learn practical things in a fun and simple way. This grooms the future leaders for a competitive global market. With the same intent of encompassing critical thinking and practical abilities in students, VRXOne is transforming education in the region, one school at a time. It has initiated a ‘Go to School program’ aimed at demonstrating 1 million expeditions to students in the region.
Breaking the new ground, VRXOne showcases VR and demonstrates the benefits of field trips in the Google Innovation Hub, Dubai. The hub and the VRXOne program both emphasize on ‘methodical teaching by demonstration’. Schools who have already witnessed VR positively review the technology, clai