California Startup Hustles to Meet Demand for VR Classes amongst Quarantined Students
Irvine, California / March 19, 2020 - A team of Immerse staff traveled to Tokyo in February for a routine two week business trip. They had no idea when they boarded their flight at LAX that the Coronavirus would completely alter their trip and perhaps their entire business. CEO and founder, Quinn Taber, explained “the trip was supposed to consist of the normal sales meetings, negotiations, and late night karaoke with clients. COVID-19 wasn’t a major news story yet and at that point in time the virus was seemingly isolated to China.”
On the third day of the trip the first cases began appearing in Tokyo and they were spreading quickly. In sales meetings the Immerse team heard the rumors that schools were considering closing and that all teaching would be forced online. Instantly, the conversation around virtual reality education changed from “What is this futuristic technology?” to “How can we implement this necessary tool?” They suddenly realized that their software platform was perfectly built for such a time as this.
Immerse has a unique and innovative business model. Their team of engineers have spent the last three years building a proprietary VR software that connects ESL students with live English trainers in engaging virtual scenarios. In these scenarios students progress through task-based activities that foster safe and fun English speaking practice. When asked, a top English professor at renowned Chuo University in Tokyo, Professor Saito, explained that the platform is so powerful “because it enables English learners to immerse themselves in “real” settings. You can practice speaking English at the airport, in a hotel lobby, or even in a presentation in front of an audience.” Each of these “significantly reduces anxiety, which is one of the keys for successful English learning,” she concluded.
Every year students in East Asia spend $63 billion dollars on English learning. Interestingly, the biggest sector in English learning, worth $13.4 billion, is English conversation training between a teacher and a small group of students. The Immerse platform focuses on that particular sector by helping high schools, universities, and language schools to facilitate VR courses with their learning outcomes tied to the widely accepted CEFR standard (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
Other companies like VIPkid and iTutorGroup avoid working with schools and instead sell skype classes directly to students using their own curriculum. Immerse on the other hand partners directly with schools to deliver VR language training that seamlessly pairs with their existing learning programs. Therefore, Immerse’s platform allows schools to offer a hyper-engaging experience that boosts real-life conversation skills and helps schools differentiate from their competitors. In the case of Japan, there was a significant amount of buzz created when the most prestigious private high school, Sendai Ikuei, and university, Chuo, both began offering VR English classes using Immerse.
When asked, Professor Saito explained that “now, Immerse is especially important because it provides a valuable experience especially for students who attend their school’s classes or study abroad because of the coronavirus." Schools everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to distribute curriculum, give lectures, and even issue exams online. But with the help of Immerse they are able to solve their most complex problem: fostering togetherness in a time of isolation. Virtual reality gives users a “sense of presence”. Despite being geographically far, VR tricks the mind into believing you are truly in-person with your peers collaborating shoulder-to-shoulder on learning activities and language tasks. Many school administrators have seen the research on how VR boosts retention and learning efficacy but are saying “that now more than ever VR is an urgent need! ”
While many other businesses are being forced to close, things at Immerse are shifting into high gear. With this new sense of urgency, the Immerse team is hustling to fulfill new contracts and connecting students from furthest corners of the globe in VR. “Things are quickly expanding beyond just East Asia,” Quinn explained, “We are now setting up partnerships with some of the largest schools in Spain and South America and we’re making plans to enter other affected regions. It’s hard to predict how long things will be on lockdown so we want to help as many students as possible.”
“In a time where isolation keeps us safe, giving young learners that connection is incredibly important for both learning, as well as mental health” said Quinn. “The opportunity to leave your room, explore a new culture, and go on an adventure with your friends is a welcomed respite from loneliness and monotony.”
He closed by saying, “as a society we are facing some very complex problems right now and thus need leaders to find creative solutions. Despite the tragic circumstances we face, I am excited to see what other entrepreneurs develop in this time of need. Here at Immerse, VR is our speciality so we are going to do everything in our power to use it as an agent for good and bringing people together. I hope to see others do the same.”
ABOUT THE FOUNDER: By his 23rd birthday, Immerse CEO, Quinn Taber, had traveled to nearly 50 countries. After graduating from Pepperdine University with his B.S. in Economics, he moved to the Middle East to volunteer with refugees from Syria and Iraq. In an effort to learn Arabic he studied the top research in immersive linguistics and built a set of techniques that got him to fluency. Astonished by how quickly his language skills improved, Quinn left Jordan with a new vision: to build a VR language platform that invited other students to learn English by traveling to a virtual America and learn just like he had. Since launching in 2017, he and his team have participated in the Wayfinder Incubator in Irvine, USC Edventure Accelerator in Los Angeles, and Praxis Labs Accelerator in New York. He now splits his time between managing his team, raising capital from investors, and speaking around the world at education and technology conferences.
OTHER PUBLICATIONS: LA Times article about Immerse launch: https://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/entertainment/tn-wknd-et-virtual-reality-language-20190404-story.html
Huffington Post article about private High School in Japan: https://www.huffingtonpost.jp/entry/story_jp_5d6f79cfe4b09bbc9ef70a67
Training Industry article about Immerse:https://trainingindustry.com/press-release/learning-technologies/immerse-emerges-from-stealth-to-launch-first-ever-virtual-reality-language-tutoring-platform/
For more information or to request a demo, please visit https://www.immerse.online/contact.