Meet The Emirati Student Who is Making VR mainstream in the UAE

Following Shamsa Al Mazrouei’s recent win at the GITEX Student Lab competition in Dubai, where she was awarded AED30,000 for her virtual reality game, the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) student reveals why she is determined to make immersive game-based learning mainstream in the UAE.

According to Deloitte Global, virtual reality (VR) will have its first billion-dollar year in 2016, with about US$700 million in hardware sales, and the remainder from content. The consultancy firm says VR is likely to have multiple applications, both consumer and enterprise, in the longer term, but in 2016 it expects the vast majority of commercial activity to focus on video games.

Such a focus has naturally led to exploration and innovation in the VR space.

“Our overarching goal is to provide children with immersive game-based learning environments to support Arabic linguistic skills acquisition,” explains Al Mazrouei, who first started working on her game in 2012 in a 2D format. “Various studies have shown that virtual immersion leads to greater engagement, which, in turn, leads to effective learning. Thus, our Educational Virtual Environment (EVE), built on cognitive immersion principles, immerses players (learners) into a magical, yet authentic, world wherein they can explore various concept-rich ecosystems. The exploration journey becomes a unique self-constructed adventure requiring the use of physical and cognitive skills.”

Aimed primarily at three to seven year olds, the product currently consists of a 3D game on a smart phone mounted on cardboard virtual reality glasses and a Bluetooth controller. This configuration allows the player to play the game while learning Arabic by exploring various environments and facing physical and cognitive challenges to move from one level to the next.

“The game went through two phases, the first phase was done as a Bachelor’s senior project,” adds Al Mazrouei. It was an educational 2D game which took us one and a half years from the development process, which we started in fall 2012. In 2014, the game was available to play in the Samsung stores under the name of Faris Adventures. We analyzed the feedback we received from users of the 2D game, the results of which led us to build a 3D educational immersive game as a Master thesis, starting in fall 2015.”

Al Mazrouei says her model supports immersion, engagement, curiosity and many other human traits that are conducive to promote learning for anyone. “The goals of developing the immersive educational games are to support the learning of the Arabic language outside the school environment for early learning stages (the model is not limited to Arabic),” adds the student. “The goal is to also develop novel learning methods and resources, provide learners with various multimedia to help them learn while playing, and provide immersive environments to support the effective learning process; as the studies show that immersive worlds lead to effective learning.”

Moving forward, Al Mazrouei says: “We are currently working on the 3D immersive game and we are planning to post it to the market too.”

Five Minutes With Shamsa Al Mazrouei

How long have you been working on the game?

The game went through two phases, the first phase was done as Bachelor’s senior project. It was an educational 2D game which took us one and a half years from the development process starting in fall 2012. In 2014, the game was available to play in the Samsung stores under the name of Faris Adventures. Feedback we received and analyzed from users of the 2D game. The results of the analysis led us to build a 3D educational immersive game as a Master thesis, starting in fall 2015.

 

What does the game look like?

The basic idea is to create 3D virtual spaces that represent familiar real-life environments in which the player explores concepts.

What are the benefits of using immersive game-based learning solutions?

The goals of developing the immersive educational games are to:

 

  • Support the learning of the Arabic language outside the school environment for early learning stages (the model is not limited to Arabic)
  • Develop novel learning methods and resources
  • Provide learners with various multimedia to help them learn while playing
  • Game-based learning helps learners in acquiring the skills independently.
  • Provide immersive environments to support the effective learning process, as the studies show that immersive worlds lead to effective learning.

 

Why is this product important?

We believe that our school children are facing difficulties in learning the Arabic language in the traditional context. We want to provide alternative and complementary resources to support and facilitate the learning process of our native language inside and outside the school. Everyone can use the game and gain the linguistic skills even if they are a foreign user. The game is made to suit children from 3 to 7 years old. Investing resources to enhance our children’s linguistics skills is critical to their success at school and in their professional life. Consequently, this level of expertise will lead to promoting the Arabic content and language as more people are comfortable with its use.

Could this game provide people overseas with an enjoyable way to learn the Arabic language?

Our research is not bound by the Arabic language. It deals with the general issues of how to model effective game-based learning. Thus, issues that we are addressing are universal. Our model supports immersion, engagement, curiosity, and many other human traits that are conducive to promote learning for anyone. Thus, our game can be used effectively by non-native speakers to learn Arabic. Also, being available on most platforms (iPhones, x-Box, PlayStation, desktops), it will be accessible to the entire world.

 What next for the game – will you take it to market?

As we exported the first 2D game to the market, we are currently working on the 3D immersive game and we are planning to post it to the market too.

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Dec 13, 2017