The founder and CEO of MUV Interactive shares his high-flying ideas.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Tech-obsessed, sandal-loving, surfer enthusiast Rami Parham is a software engineer and the founder of MUV Interactive. When he was a private game developer, Rami (pictured, left) became infatuated with the way people interacted with their digital content and he sought to find a better bridge for the mind-body connection and digital aspirations of individuals. After graduating from the Technion Institute of Technology magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management and Engineering, he began his professional career as the information technology manager at Systematics Inc. In 2010, Rami went back to his passion and founded MUV Interactive where he is creating the next generation of human sensing technologies to interact with digital interfaces. Here, Rami describes a technology with applications for helping students soar.
What is the ‘bird’ and how can educators and students benefit from it?
Rami: BIRD™ is a wearable ring-like device that transforms any surface (blackboard, wall, table, floor, etc) into a multi-touch interface with 3D interactive capabilities. Following a
Over the years, there has been a gradual movement away from strictly consumptive classroom devices (iPads, etc) and towards technology that promotes student creativity and collaborative learning.
simple installation in a classroom equipped with a projector or LCD display, it allows teachers to display interactive content from their PC, tablet or smartphone on any surface, and interact with it – via touch, remote touch, gesture control, voice command, mouse functionality and hover – from anywhere in the room. BIRD promotes increased student engagement by enabling rich and dynamic classroom experiences, as well as enhanced collaboration; if the classroom has multiple birds, up to 10 students can interact with the same material simultaneously.
How exactly does it work? Is this your own proprietary technology?
Rami: BIRD’s patented technology incorporates an array of sensing technologies – including modulated optic recognition, MEMs-based inertial sensing, capacitive sensing, camera modules, force sensing and more – into a miniaturized, flexible wearable device. These sensors deliver tens of thousands of numbers every second, which our algorithms analyze and translate into meaningful data that pinpoints exactly where and how the user is motioning his or her fingers.
Is it similar to any technologies that are currently being used in the classroom? In other words, does it replace/improve upon any pre-existing edtech?
Rami: Some classroom technologies include one or two of BIRD’s features, but nothing really comes close to matching its robust functionality. You could compare it to an interactive whiteboard, but it does much more. It is simple to install, can be used simultaneously by up to 10 different users (vs. 2 for interactive whiteboards), enables interaction with digital content from up to 100 feet away, and the list goes on. Moreover, it does all of this at a fraction of the cost of an interactive whiteboard.
What are the system requirements?
Rami: There is nothing simpler! It is a plug-and-play device that works with any existing projector. Everything you need is included in the package.
What do you view as the most compelling educational applications of this technology?
Rami: Because it works with all applications that support Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, it gives educators the versatility to use whichever programs work best for them and their teaching material. However, the most compelling applications are probably those that enable interaction or collaboration between the teacher and students.
How did you come up with the idea for the device?
Rami: A few years ago, I was watching an inspiring Ted Talk with my brother, when I began to feel that the value of the speaker’s message was diminished by his use of a primitive, clicker-controlled presentation. Determined to develop a more advanced way for 21st century humanity to communicate its ideas, I quit my job, began developing the early prototype of BIRD in my parents’ garage, and founded MUV Interactive in 2011.
Can more than one person use it at the same time?
Rami: Absolutely! This is one of its greatest features. Not only can multiple users (up to 10) control shared digital content, but each user is also free to walk up to 100 feet away, turn his or her back on the interface, and still interact with the content!
Are you targeting K-12, higher education or both?
Rami: We are targeting all education levels. It’s is meant to be used from kindergarten through college.
How can interested educators get it?
Rami: Educators can sign up on our website (www.muvinteractive.com) to be alerted when BIRD is ready for pre-order; it will be available through the site later this year. We will also work with distributors worldwide to bring BIRD to the educational sector. We are very excited to work with educators and establish an online community, so we can continue the discussion on technology and its ever-increasing role in education.
We are currently engaged with several beta sites that are getting a feel for it and seeing for themselves how it can drastically improve the learning experience. We will collect feedback from these sites prior to launch to perfect what needs perfecting.
What are your thoughts on education in general these days?
Rami: Benjamin Franklin said that the only thing more expensive than an education is ignorance. Yet in many parts of the world, it is still very difficult for children to receive a good education. At MUV Interactive, we firmly believe that technology can help resolve this problem.
In 2013, according to UNESCO, approximately 124 million children and adolescents around the world were out of school. Perhaps it would be impossible to bring a school to every remote corner of the world in desperate need — but you can certainly bring computers. We have seen amazing results in this area from such programs as Teachers without Borders, Khan Academy and One Laptop per Child. Unfortunately, current efforts are nowhere near enough, and providing universal access to education continues to be a struggle.
At MUV Interactive, we are doing our part by working to deliver a high-performance, user-friendly device that is attainable even by schools with small budgets. We want to help bridge the gap that is preventing equal access to great academic learning opportunities.
What are your thoughts on technology’s role in education? What makes you say that?
Rami: Let’s look at three interesting statistics about education in the United States from the documentary Waiting for Superman:
1. Approximately 7,000 kids drop out of school each day.
2. Of all in-school factors that affect student achievement, effective principals and teachers account for nearly 60 percent of a student’s ability to succeed.
3. Students with high performing teachers progressed three times as fast as those with low performing teachers.
Based on these stats, we believe that there is an infinite number of possibilities for technology in education. If students indeed progress faster with higher performing teachers, our schools can only benefit from technology that helps teachers to perform at these higher levels.
Is this a wearable technology, or is that a somewhat different category?
Rami: Yes, it is a wearable technology. However, since the beginning, we have aimed to deliver solutions chiefly to the education and business markets, while most wearable devices are designed for the consumer electronics market.
We are very confident that it will eventually become a consumer product, but right now we are focused on developing the best possible product for the educational and professional markets.
Any thoughts about future edtech trends?
Rami: Over the years, there has been a gradual movement away from strictly consumptive classroom devices (iPads, etc) and towards technology that promotes student creativity and collaborative learning. This is where BIRD fits in, and where we see the market as a whole going. Today’s edtech tools aren’t just about learning; they are about helping students to create, engage with their material, and become better prepared for the post-graduation ‘real world.’
Will the device eventually get smaller or be part of a glove? (we don’t have to publish this one)
The current design will evolve over time, becoming smaller and more integrated. While achieving this goal, MUV Interactive’s engineers are passionately providing ever-increasing levels of satisfaction, user experience and levels of operation per customer demand.
Anything else in the works for classrooms/education?
Rami: BIRD is MUV Interactive’s first entry into the interactive classroom. We believe that a strong partnership with educators, students and authorities will lead to new generation devices, with better engagement and collaboration capabilities. Our customers are closely working with us on evaluating the product and providing real life feedback on new capacities to be implemented in the future.
Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: [email protected]