UNICEF Innovation Fund: VR/AR Portfolio

6 months update

Zenani Orengo and Meghan Rose Warner
UNICEF Innovation Fund team, Innovation Fund portfolio companies and mentors during the Cohort workshop in April 2019 held at SAP-Next Gen Labs
UNICEF Innovation

09 August 2019

It has been six months since UNICEF Innovation Fund onboarded its largest round of investments. The portfolio of thirteen startup companies are developing open source digital public goods to address complex challenges and create fairer opportunities for children and young people. 

Among these thirteen investments, are four companies utilizing Virtual Reality technology to create equitable access for quality education, broaden the range of content in a localized context and reduce the barriers of entry for experiential learning opportunities. 

Throughout the investment period, UNICEF is leveraging its vast network to connect these companies to UNICEF’s work in their respective countries and provide technical and business development support. In addition, the open source code and use cases are being guided to address specific programmatic needs so that UNICEF, its partners, and local entrepreneurs can leverage these learnings and scale innovative solutions that have the potential to positively impact children's lives. 

Here are some of the key updates from each of the companies over the first six months of their investment period:

A student tests out immersive learning modules via VR in Lagos, Nigeria.
UNICEF Innovation
A student tests out immersive learning modules via VR in Lagos, Nigeria.

Imisi 3D (Nigeria):

Imisi 3D are early adopters of VR in Africa, with a significant VR community built around the company. With UNICEF’s support Imisi 3D will explore how to best develop educational content design according to curriculum needs and connectivity constraints of schools in Nigeria.

Key Highlights:

  • The Imisi 3D team are working with a public junior secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria (Jibowu High School). The school has a total of 1143 students and covers 3 years.
  • Onboarded a group of 10 teachers who are collaborating with and supporting the project as subject matter experts, advocates, and testers.
  • Built a prototype for the Basic Science module - a lesson on potential and kinetic energy.

 

Guy testing VR headset
Nubian VR
A guy testing out Nubian VR content modules using a VR headset

NubianVR (Ghana) 

NubianVR is developing learning content built-in WebXR. Focused on how to best design content based on curriculum needs and connectivity constraints of the school system in Ghana. 

Key Highlights:

  • Identified and formed partnerships with 31 public schools to conduct user testing 
  • The current electronic content plan was built together with  Practical Education Network (PEN) - providing a network of teachers to validate their product.

 

Student using VR for learning
veative labs
Student using VR for learning

Veative Labs (India):

Veative is a global provider of VR education and learning simulations for schools and industries. Their STEM library itself boasts 500+ modules of high-quality content. Veative will be open-sourcing part of its content library and making it available to access via WebVR. 

Key Highlights:

  • Veative has developed six interactive WebVR modules for STEAM using Aframe a web framework for building virtual reality experiences.
  • The team have tested 100 students in five schools (four in India, one in Japan) 
  • Developing ways to provide educators with meaningful assessment data about their students development in certain subject areas.

 

Students interacting with VR learning content in class
Utopic studio
Students interacting with VR learning content in class

Utopic Studio (Chile):

Utopic uses VR games that have been specifically tailored to increase children's motivation while assessing their reading skills in a non-traditional, more sociocultural approach to testing.

Key Highlights:

  • Team Utopic has tested the platform usability with over 500 students and 20 teachers 
  • Developed tools to easily switch from the mobile application to webvr-bridging the gap for students without access to VR hardware. 
  • Received a grant from Chile’s Ministry of Arts and Culture to carry out research on VR for building literacy skills. 

 


The start-ups that receive funding through UNICEF’s Innovation Fund join the investment portfolio for 12 months. During this period, they receive up to $100K in tranches as well as business, product, and technical mentoring, communications and story-telling support and introductions to relevant potential partners, amongst other things.

Over the next 6 months of the portfolio experience, these VR/AR companies will be working on completing their solution prototypes and will continue testing in the field. Also, the companies will be seeking follow-on funding to continue their work.