Graduate: Suzhou Crenovator Lab inspiring children to think, design and create content for VR devices
Jul 31 , 2019
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The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see portfolio member, Suzhou Crenovator Labs, graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up to take their solution to market. They’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community.
REFLECTIONS FROM THE TEAM
Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp's VRMaker, is a mobile application for Android-based phones, that enables children to think, design, and create content for VR devices, utilizing visual programming in a real-time rendered 3D environment.
The VRMaker is a creation tool, in which 3D art assets, 360 photographs and other media such as music, sound, and text can be combined with simple programming using functional blocks, generating virtual reality content. The completed content can then be viewed in the VRMaker Player on an Android-based phone, or the content can be uploaded to a public cloud, using our server-side publishing software for easy access on other devices. The variety of digital assets that can be used and the block programming makes it very easy for children to create content such as stories, educational content and games.
Our team created a VR content creation panel in Unity3D to replace the text editor for writing script, we achieved this using QT enabling the user to create VR content in our tool. In this way, the user doesn't need to use Unity3D for VR content creation. Finally, we compiled Unity3D as a WebGL application and integrated it in our VR content creation editor.
Our team conducted customer interviews to identify pain points with the user’s needs. This seems obvious, but identifying all the stakeholders who will be touched by the pilot program is critical. For future user testing, we will form several small user groups in different provinces of China and one or two other countries/regions.
A main challenge we have encountered as we developed our product is how to price the software appropriately for schools at a large scale, especially in traditional settings where schools lean towards purchasing physical products, which are easy to be registered as assets. Typically, it would take 6 to 18 months for school to approve the budget by purchasing a new content tool in China.
We are tasked with important work of gaining the pedagogical buy-in of schools in realizing the true value of implementing Virtual Reality in the classroom. Initially making VRMaker as a free product does help school teachers to use and test the product immediately, and reduces the wait time for the approval process from the school budget office to purchase it. In the near future, we will explore licensing some user testing services online to increase the efficiency and quality of user testing on VRMaker.
Over the past 12 months, our team was able to complete an open-source project based on our existing software technology, VRMaker. VRMaker was originally a private project, switching it to the open-source based project was a challenge for us, since we could barely perceive an open-source project running well in our software industry.
We were also worried that our competitors may steal our final work and produce it as a freeware. But that situation didn’t happen. Instead, making it open-source gradually changed our mindset and development procedures. We now have a better development team with more self-confidence and discipline and write better code. Fostering an open-source project takes a much higher standard of software development, in addition, the self-discipline of code writing is essential to the success of the project too.
Fostering an open-source project takes a much higher standard of software development
We aim to work with leading educational foundations in China and North America. We want to pursue such partnerships so that relevant foundations can serve as major contact points to the schools and regions in China we seek to implement our product, allowing us to reach more children at a greater scale.
Next, we plan to introduce time-limited offers of free licenses to schools around the world. We hope this strategy will help to grow our user base faster.
During the one year investment period, UNICEF Innovation Fund helped us grow our strategies to attract the attention of the education industry in China. We are thrilled to have had such a chance, and we are very happy to have received the support of the UNICEF Innovation Fund.