Celebrating Ramadan with Google

Celebrating Ramadan with Google

The month of May has already been pretty happening in the Middle East with Future Tech Week (GISEC/ GEMEC/IoTx) taking place in Dubai and Bahrain-based VRXOne being highlighted in the recent Google I/O 2018. And now, as Ramadan is close at hand, there is more to come. Let us put it this way…

Got a Ramadan-related query? Don’t worry Google is bringing all Ramadan-related information literally to your fingertips during this holy month. That’s right. As Muslims around the world have been gearing up for fasting schedule in Ramadan, Google has had its own preparations. Or as Najeeb Jarrar, the Head of Consumer Marketing at Google for MENA region, puts it, “As more than a billion people prepare for Ramadan, we too at Google have been working to help our users as they begin to adapt to the month-long occasion. From augmented reality in Qibla Finder to virtual reality in Qalam, we brought Google’s innovation to your fingertips this Ramadan.”

No matter what it is you are looking for – local prayer times, popular Ramadan recipes or useful tips – all of this and related information is going to be accessible on the main search result page throughout the month-long Islamic event.

Not only that, Google has also revealed addition of new features as part of Ramadan services called Qibla Finder and Qalam. These new features are a product of Muslims’ digital habits over years during Ramadan as per the Google Trends data which signifies a greater interest in ‘Qibla and Ramadan Kareem’-related searches throughout the holy month. So let us look at what are these novel features.

One of the features is an update to the Qibla Finder web app, launched last year which makes use of Augmented Reality on Android devices to find Qibla direction – a very useful app for Muslims at the time of prayer as they carry on with their activities throughout the day. The update enables offline use of the feature as well as allows to place a shortcut to Qibla Finder app on the home screen of Android devices, in essence speeding up the entire process for greater convenience.

The new product however is to do with Ramadan and later, Eid greetings for users to share with friends and family. Called Qalam (Pen), this app is a hybrid of calligraphy and virtual reality. The app offers over 35 artworks created by nine of the world-famous artists and calligraphists including el Seed whose is known for “calligraffiti” in his designs which is a mix of calligraphy with graffiti; Tolga Girgin from Turkey whose work unites calligraphy with typography; Soraya Syed from Pakistan, specializing in bringing together modern technologies like holography with calligraphy – as well as Diaa Allam, Karima Sharabi, Lulwah Al Hamoud, Majid Al Yousuf and Rachel Joy Price.

We are excited to benefit from these features during Ramadan as we dig through Google Search Engine for our desired Islamic queries. Ramadan Kareem, everyone!

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.

Google Summit at Kent College, Dubai Focusses on ‘Learn by Doing’

Google Summit at Kent College, Dubai Focusses on ‘Learn by Doing’

Apps Events, Dubai on Friday (May 11) and Saturday (May 12) welcomed educators, leaders and IT, administrators, to engage in a thoughtful conversation on the latest developments and updates pertaining to education at Google Summit. The session held at the Kent College, Dubai saw keen attendees, given the past reputation of the Apps Event’s success. Deep diving dives into many of the Google tools have been a great USP of these events.

The session was graced by the leaders in the Google for Education community had a lot to look out for.

The conference, eagerly awaited by tech aficionados around the world, kicked off with an inspiring keynote on the Day 1 by Rania Hadi, the Head of Google Education MENA. She took the stage to showcase the latest developments in the pursuit of better education at Google. Her talk was briefly yet deeply centered around what goes at the heart of Google that makes it work.

What followed was a chain of talks, experience sharing, and practical insights from teachers, technology evangelists and also by the Director of AppsEvents, Dan Taylor. His talk was a guided lesson to how, by using ‘core suite’ and other ‘non-core’ Google Apps, a school could be transformed to a Google school, starting from the basics and taking the penetration to a higher level.

Talks were delivered highlighting the benefits of G Suite, Google Slides, Chromebooks and elucidating the other lesser-known benefits to both students and teachers.

A special coverage of Virtual Reality Google Expeditions was observed as the prominent regional AR VR researcher and trainer, Dr. Sana Farid enlightened the fellow attendees on the benefits of Google Expeditions. Dr. Sana envisions, strategizes and streamlines Ai/AR/VR based programs in education to improve the learning experience in students. Her regional experience and in-depth understanding of reality technology have led to her being noted in the list of Top 101 Women in #ARVR 2017, winning her global acclaim.

Through her talk, Dr. Sana explained the workability of VR expeditions and how they can be easily implemented in classrooms to cater to individual student needs. Accounts of how Google expeditions could exponentially boost retention and decrease distraction from learning was the tipping point of the talk.

Another high note of the event was seeing pupils from the Kent College Dubai creating their own Google Classroom in real time, as well as other software from G Suite for Education.

Google Summit, on the whole, laid a strong pavement for a beginner’s understanding of Google’s education tools as well as allowed crossover of important exchange of views of the preeminent leaders, regional and global.

The premier Google Summit partners of the event were Acer and Intel.

Google IO 2018: VRXOne Finds Mention as Google Expeditions Partner, Read Other Important Takeaways

Google IO 2018: VRXOne Finds Mention as Google Expeditions Partner, Read Other Important Takeaways

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.

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.

 

Bursting with Wonders – The Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018

Bursting with Wonders – The Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018

Just as our body strengthens and becomes sturdier as a result of flexing and exercising our muscles, our brain benefits in the similar fashion becoming stronger and enhanced from exercise in the form of intellectual and creative activities, of which reading is a primary impetus. It is astounding the way reading adds to our cognitive ability and development attaining higher levels of awareness and augmenting neural activity as well as improving the overall mental health. The acclaimed novelist, scholar, translator, essayist and editor, Alberto Manguel has even gone as far as to describe his experience of learning to read as “acquiring a new sense, so that now certain things no longer consists merely of what my eyes could see, my ears could hear, my tongue could taste, my nose could smell, my fingers could feel, but of what my whole body could decipher, translate, give voice to, read”.

This promised horizon of possibilities and exposure to diversity and cerebral growth, is exactly what the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018 (SCRF 2018) is all about, opening at ExpoCentreSharjah on 18th April 2018 for 11 days of discovery, creativity and exploration. Held annually under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Muhammad Al Qasimi, the cultural festival is aimed at inspiring and promoting a culture of reading, learning and applying that knowledge especially amongst children, helping to raise a generation of scholars and leaders that the society can benefit from at all levels.   

 

A bright, eclectic constellation of authors, illustrators, speakers, thespians and publishing professionals will grace the SCRF, as Sharjah celebrates the 10th edition of the famous festival, alongside over 120 local and international publishers with a collection of their books on display for sale. Based on this year’s theme ‘Your Future… Just a Book Away’, Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) has revealed a packed itinerary of the most amazing and diverse range of workshops and activities for the children’s festival.

 

Celebrated authors, storytellers and illustrators will join to read their famous works and meet their fans at the festival such as Lebanese author and founder of Hunna Group for Female Emirati Writers and Creators, Sahar Mahfouz; Palestinian author and illustrator Fadwa Al Qasem Fadwa; and Egyptian author and scriptwriter Amr Samir Atef. Traveling down from other continents will be eminent writers, essayists and poets, talking about creativity, humorous literature, articulating information, as well as writing poems and illustrating like Ed Vere from Britain, Mirada Paul from USA, Natasha Sharma from India, Michael M. Coroza from Philippines, and regarded as one of the most innovative storytellers today, Mark Gonzalez, also from the USA.

 

Joining from the world of theater and creative arts, Egypt’s favorite actors Sabrin and Abdul Rahman Abu Zahra; Bahrain’s Haifa Hussein; Algeria’s Tareq Al Arabi Tarkan; Oman’s Mohammed Bin Khalfan Al Hanaee; Syria’s Dr. Mustafa Abdul Fattah, Founder and Chairman of the Children’s Literary Club and the much adored voice of animated movies such as ‘Mowgli’, ‘Captain Majid’ and the “Small Fisherman’, actress Amal Hawijeh.

 

This star-studded event will incorporate insight and discussion from Christine S. Bellen from the Philippines talking about the relationship between novelists and filmmakers and the journey ‘From Page to Screen’. Whereas Darya Yegorina from Ireland, the CEO of CleverBooks, will be sharing her knowledge about emerging and innovative technologies for education.

However, the 10th edition of the SCRF includes something huge in ed-tech that will be a part of the event for the first time. Led by Dr. Sana Farid from Bahrain, the pioneer ARVR & Ai Strategist and CEO of VRXOne, sessions will be held on Virtual Reality for education demonstrated by an Expert Google Expeditions trainer. In the spirits of delivering thorough understanding and connecting with the Emirati youth, these sessions will be delivered in Arabic language. This is an amazing opportunity for the youth to get familiar with the use of VR in education and experience Google Expeditions at the platform of VRXone – the biggest Virtual Reality program in the region, already taking a million VR sessions to schools in the Middle East. It is noteworthy here that Dr. Sana Farid has recently been awarded by UAE Ministry of Education earlier this month for her proficient participation in Gulf Teachers Training Forum, where she delivered workshops for Immersive learning platforms for teachers attending the session from all over UAE.

 

The festival will also host academics including Dr. Reem Al Fawwaz, Assistant Professor and Researcher in Children’s Literature and Literary Criticism at the Arabic Language Department of the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah as well as Toqa Abdelrahim, a teacher and civil activist who founded the ‘Whites’ initiative on women’s and children’s issues, and Dr. Najla Bashour, Professor of Educational Science at the University of Saint Joseph, whose participation is noted for founding the Tala Establishment for Educational Aids and Instruments in 1984.

 

The Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018 will be a jewel-speckled, happening event where children will be able to get in touch with their creative side and elevate intellectual tendencies – and to add to their inspiration and excitement– including the chance to win the “Innovation Award” for 9 to 15-year-olds, rewarding the creativity, originality and resourcefulness of those who exhibit the propensity lo lead with pioneering ideas and concepts in the fields of science and knowledge. The festival will further include four different competitions on innovation, news reporting, poetry, and cooking, in order to further shape and develop skilled based knowledge and competencies among the Emirati youth. So if you are anywhere in the Middle East during the month of April, this is where you need to be through these much-awaited 11 days of the SCRF 2018.