[Guest Blog] Advanced Entertainment: Removing the barriers to learning

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: New blog articles in Microsoft Tech Community.

This blog article was written by Ted Biggs, who works at Shaftesbury Technology in Canada. He shares more how his organization's vision was built on the foundation of where entertainment and technology intersects to help improve the lives of children everywhere. 




Today, we find ourselves in a moment of great introspection and innovation. As the world is faced with the challenges a global lockdown creates, we're also a time of significant intellectual advancement. We're an AI-dependent world now, and so AI must be made for the better good. AI affects almost every aspect of our daily lives and changes the mode and message of the media we consume. 


Shaftesbury Technology was formed at the intersection of entertainment and technology. The vision? Make the lives of children better through technology. With roots as a feature film company, the organization has evolved into a global multi-format production and distribution company. We believe in leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to develop engaging, creative content and powerful immersive reality platforms. We work collaboratively with leading pediatric healthcare institutions and university research centers in Canada and the US to help alleviate situational stress and anxiety by transforming a child's environment with the power of play.

Using technology for good - especially to help benefit children - is an interesting challenge for all organizations. We've expanded the curriculum to include storytelling, games, and creative activities that help fill the void for a child used to having recess, socializing with their schoolmates, creating art for their classroom walls, and experiencing storytime together as a class or in a group. Developing AI tools for a better education experience with a human-focus has a far more significant impact and engagement. It provides a child with a sense of accomplishment, calm, and empowerment. 


Humanity is at the turning point, and it all starts with the education of our children.


We look beyond the technology and focus on building a good design foundation and in the hope that we can be a part of creating a more empathetic future. Our research's primary focus is to invest more in understanding humanly responsive design and engineering practices, policies, and tools to build products around intuitive human interaction. These design principles are based on two core beliefs: Respect people and do good. 


How do we do that using cutting-edge technology? Unlike other VR/AR experiences with purely linear content, with advanced machine learning, the content changes for individuals depending on their stress level, resulting in a faster and more significant reduction of anxiety. Through this immersive marriage of content and technology, we hope to create smart entertainment spaces that contribute to learning and living better. 


In our development of software products that help reimagine wellness for children using immersive play with adaptive game experience, we decide to build our patent-pending cloud-based Neural Net AI on Microsoft's Azure cloud system.


The pending patent system for adaptive games and experiences developed by our organization in collaboration with our partners' research goals adjusts to an individual's responses, resulting in a unique experience for each child, depending on emotional state and state of mind. The objective of our game experiences is to alleviate stress, adapt to individual learning styles, and reduce anxiety for kids facing situational stress and anxiety. The challenges that arise from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and anxiety disorders by providing the ability to personalize the experience through gameplay will present different visual and auditory cues to better understand the content. 


The use of technology, such as games, to enhance students’ learning in the classroom is a timely topic that permeates a lot of educational literature, especially with distance-learning mandated by COVID physical distancing. COVID-19 has affected us all, and the lives of children have been uniquely altered. The enforced isolation of large parts of the population has presented tremendous difficulties and challenges to educators, clinicians, children, and families.


Based on our experience, most educational games available in schools are not motivating enough for students and lack the fun factor. Children are not as motivated to play these games as they play commercial computer and video games at home. There is a need to design and develop more useful and engaging educational games relevant to the current curriculum and can be integrated in the day to day learning.




For example, Microscopic Machines is a Mixed Reality game project that allows the player to create, assemble, and personalize their own cell and interact with different creatures at the cellular level. The game looks at cell biology and ecology through a visual programming perspective. Its key innovation is Bubble Flow, an attractive and intuitive visual programming language that can model some essential cell metabolism Big Ideas. The gameplay requires steering a cell through a beautiful microscopic world, overcoming challenges to gather the building blocks, and the understanding needed to empower the designs fully. The game will deliver a 2D and 3D play experience to a range of AR and screen-based platforms. Based on an innovative layer of game logic, the Microscopic Machines provides a wildly entertaining user experience that simultaneously guides players through tasks that correspond to logical constructs used in STEAM topics.


We also designed some games to help address some of the challenges faced by children on the Autism Spectrum and those dealing with anxieties in stressful situations; all of these games provide a safe environment for both children and parents and tremendous value to Educators and Clinicians. 


Education is vital for our society, and the new world we find ourselves in may leave some behind, those who require one-on-one and specialized learning. We are thrilled to use to suite of tools that align with the Microsoft Education mandate and helps equip educators, parents, and, most importantly, children of all ages with captivating tools for deeper engagement and fulfillment. We are witnessing a new education paradigm where education must be fluid, learner-centric, and not limited by time or space. By starting from a place of human experience, Advanced Entertainment allows kids to be the heroes of their own learning journey.


How are YOU using technology to help benefit society today? We'd love to learn from the experiences of others and exchange ideas as well!





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