Has it occurred to you, why special children are mostly aggressive, rude and with problematic behaviors? This is because of the deficiencies in development while having no proper communication, social skills and above all no opportunities for entertainment and fun.
Sadly they are being taught with orthodox and traditional methods of teaching while not a single genre from society is supporting them, and the tech world is no exception here. Especially if we consider augmented reality and dedicated software development for the special children, we rarely see any development in this regard.
Meet the Pakistani Startup WonderTree, bringing a wind of change not only for Pakistani special children but aiming high towards global transformations.
Talking to the co-founder of WonderTree, Muhammad Waqas, we got to know that the startup is working on a state of the art machine learning and augmented reality technology that combines psychology and gamification with physiotherapy and education.
In simple terms, they are making games for special children not only to provide them with entertainment but also to enhance their motor and cognitive skills.
Games for Special Children
WonderTree develops games after consulting with therapists and psychologists to mold their games in a way that they produce the best results for special children. At first, they roll out the beta version of the game and start taking feedback from the teachers, parents and the doctors of the special child. They continuously provide updates and their latest build comes almost every month.
At the moment, games are only available on Windows platform but they have plans to introduce Android and IOS based versions in future too.
The complete setup consists of an infrared camera (that records child movement), TV screen, laptop or a PC. The depth sensing camera is easily available in the market and is manufactured by brands like Intel and Microsoft.
Although the internet is required to play these games, you don’t need a fast connection. “With the help of the internet, data is submitted to the Microsoft servers which is then available for parents to review the progress of the child,” said Waqas
Right now, the games are only provided to institutions like schools and hospital but they are planning to integrate payment method on their website to make it available for the individuals and international clients.
Cheaper and Entertaining Alternative
WonderTree has 9 stable, and polished games while many are in the developmental phase. The one-month subscription of all games for one child cost Rs. 3000 which is dirt cheap in comparison to the cost of physiotherapy sessions.
A session of physiotherapy from any private clinic in Pakistan cost around Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5000 and in a month one has to pay a minimum of Rs. 15,000.
What’s more amazing is that the founders of WonderTree have a kindred spirit and they have even provided games to institutions free of cost.
“We are not here to just earn revenue if we wanted the profit we had plenty of other options too. We conduct good business that emphasizes on generating revenue while contributing to society,” said Waqas.
Children with special needs require physiotherapy frequently. Wonder Tree is transforming special education by using Augmented reality games to conduct therapies and development of special children. Their idea is to make a change in special education global market by making it: cheaper, accessible and effective.
These are the major traits that special education lacks globally. “In the USA, 49 states out of 50 lack expertise regarding special education and have a limited number of educators,” said Waqas.
Sadly, Pakistan is no different. According to a study by the British Council, there is only 1 psychologist and a therapist for every 230,000 Pakistanis and there are just 330 schools for more than a million children with special needs.
Government Can Make it Big
“Government has the logistics and resources. What they can do in one year, we might achieve in 20 years. We want the government to come forward and play their part,” said Waqas.
You might have come across the interview of the first lady, Bushra Bibi, in which she talked about special children, and orphans. “After witnessing their living condition and the dilemma they are facing, I was unable to sleep for many nights,” she said. This truly paints the picture of hardships that special children are facing.
It is commendable that the Punjab Government has reserved Rs. 1 Billion in the budget 2018-2019 for special education. All provincial and federal government should also pay heed to startups like WonderTree rather than just using traditional and old-school methods for special children.
The founders of WonderTree also expect the government to support them by providing funds for research and development purpose. It will not only help revive Pakistan’s special education sector but will also result in increasing country’s IT exports.