A Tampa-based augmented reality startup, MARVL, plans to use innovative tech to teach English and Spanish to children. The platform will use an animated figure named Ivan and his companion, a sloth named Watson, to make learning languages simpler and fun.
MARVL or Multimedia Augmented Reality Vocabulary Learning is currently in beta, working with select schools to cater to children in kindergarten through second grade. The company plans to develop an app for K to 12th graders to enable the parents to learn and teach English and Spanish at home.
The company was founded by Sara Smith, an assistant professor in language education at the University of South Florida, with its Chief Building Officer, Murewa Olubela.
The company’s primary goal is to bridge the ‘achievement gap’ faced by students as they try to master English while studying other subjects, such as Science. The app uses a variety of means, like flashcards that trigger the characters.
“Kids are really sensitive to being spoken to as babies,” said Smith. “Ivan is cool,” and Watson is “there to say things again even a little more slowly.”
The company has received USD 83,500 in grant money from the National Science Foundation and the USF Foundation.
The platform is available at select charter schools in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The company plans to approach more school systems nationally and expand globally sometime next year.
MARVL wishes to work with nonprofits and other organizations to get access to research information on involving parents in the process. The company will further expand its language offerings, beginning with Haitian Creole.
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