October is National Bullying Prevention Month. While XR technology is great for gaming and a boon for enterprise, it also has a huge hand in social issues, including bullying. One great case-in-point comes from the good people at Kinful, bringing Social and Emotional Learning to students through a partnership with VR headset manufacturer Pico.
To better understand how social and emotional learning (SEL) is aided by XR technology and how a VR headset company can provide that assistance, ARPost held video interviews with Kinful co-founder Sam Williamson and Pico Interactive Sales and Partnerships Director Will Winston. Winston also walked us through Pico’s partnership with XRHealth back in May.
“Kinful got started because [co-founder] Michael Auerbach and I were in the PeaceCorps together,” said Williamson. “We started an idea back and forth about how we could start something that would basically be a next-level pen-pal experience.”
The foundation of Kinful is a library of 360-videos that are filmed by students around the world. These videos are then built into the Kinful curriculum and watched by other students using the platform.
“We were interested in the idea of giving someone a shared experience that they could then process,” said Williamson. “An experience that would allow them to experience something that they had never experienced before but that was presented by a peer of theirs.”
This kind of presentation is important because, as Williamson explained, bullying is often a symptom that something is wrong for the bully too. When children learn how to understand why bullying is happening, they become more capable of diffusing or avoiding those situations.
When students use the platform, they’re presented with open-ended prompts that they can use to create their own videos. These can then be uploaded for review, usually to ensure that they are of sufficient technical quality for other users to appreciate. Some students take the initiative to edit their videos as well, though this isn’t required.
Where Pico Comes In
Because most of the Kinful content consists of 360 videos, their hardware requirements aren’t extremely demanding. However, the need to have their content available without the headset being connected to the internet complicates their needs.
For a time, Kinful used Google Cardboard but found it to be too clumsy. The organization then experimented with various stand-alone headsets and reached out to manufacturers for information. “Frankly, [Pico] were the first ones that seemed interested in what we were doing,” said Williamson. “They didn’t just want us to use their headset, they were helping us to work through what we wanted to do.”
Pico, whose partnerships include telehealth platforms, eldercare solutions, and remote learning, was eager to get involved. Further, there is “a lot of overlap” between Kinful’s needs and the needs that Pico often sees in industry, as Winston explained.
“We always want to be on impactful use cases,” said Winston. “(…) things that really make a difference in peoples’ lives using XR as a tool.”
Much of the technical support comes down to Pico’s “Kiosk mode” which reduces the amount of navigation that the young users need to go through. Though, according to Williamson, it is more often the teachers than the students that have questions regarding the platform.
SEL, XR, and the Pandemic
Like so many things in the XR technology space, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been both a complication and a boon to this technology. For one, the pandemic makes emotional and mental health in schools an even more important topic.
“There’s an entire level of SEL that’s going to be required after this to process what’s going on now but also people have a lot of social-emotional baggage that they might be bringing back to campus,” said Williamson.
While the pandemic may have made this solution more important, it has also made Pico better equipped to help provide the solution. The Pico Goblin series that Kinful uses was recently redesigned to make them easier to clean and care for.
The series had also been recently expanded to include additional memory. This is another solution that comes in handy for the Wi-Fi avoidant Kinful. As Williamson pointed out, in addition to not all schools having wireless internet, some schools are reluctant to give youngsters access to internet connected devices.
Bullying Happens Year-Round
It may be too late for any educators out there reading this to incorporate Kinful into this year’s Bullying Prevention Month. However, it’s not too late to reach out to Kinful to learn more about how their platform on Pico’s hardware can improve SEL at a school near you through XR technology.