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World-first VR app to revolutionize foreign language learning

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VR to breathe new life into old languages

VR to breathe new life into old languages
Credit : (used with permission)

Learning a foreign language is set to become easier, more fun and dramatically faster thanks to innovations made by Dr. Aaron Ralby and his team at Macunx VR.


Technology leading the way


Today there’s hardly a sector where technology is not disrupting the status-quo, whether it be industry research, accommodation or learning.


In recent times a range of language-learning apps have enabled a new generation of aspiring linguists to do their vocabulary and grammar memorisation on-the-go and escape the classroom.


But such applications mostly rely on dated techniques and involve rote memorisation, requiring a learner to recall a word repeatedly to force it into long-term memory.


All of that boring, time-consuming memorisation is about to become a thing of the past through the resurrection in VR of spatial memory techniques used extensively throughout history but largely forgotten in modern times.


Ancient wisdom brought back to life


The recorded history of spatial memory techniques goes back thousands of years and began with the method of loci. According to legend passed on by Cicero (c.35-c.95 C.E), the method of loci technique was first developed by Simonides (c.556-c.468 B.C.E.) and was central to the development of the Western intellectual tradition throughout the ancient, medieval and renaissance periods.


In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the method was extended to using physical spaces such as buildings, both real and imagined. These versions came to be known as Memory Palaces.


These techniques were especially important to orators who needed to memorise a speech without the aid of pen, paper or PC, and then deliver the speech to a crowd, a parliament or some other audience. Being able to talk confidently and coherently on a topic without notes was an important skill for any citizen of an ancient society, whether for negotiating the purchase of property, for borrowing money or for settling disputes with neighbours.


How it works


The method of loci is simple but powerful. Want to give it a try?


Begin by visualising a familiar route such as the walk from your front door to the train station. Along this route select various points (loci) such as your garden gate, the park bench on the street and the traffic lights on the corner. Visualise walking past each of these points in order. At each location visualise an object to represent something you want to remember.


Imagine the topic of your speech is ‘freedom’. The first point of your speech relates to the history of freedom. Visualise the first stop on your journey, which may be your front door. In your mind now imagine standing at your front door holding a large clock, which symbolizes the idea of ‘history’ to you. In turn, create visual mnemonics for each key point of your speech and place them at individual points on your mental journey.


Next rehearse in your mind walking along the journey from your front door to the train station, recalling the images you have created at each location. This helps to cement each memory.


When giving your speech, simply walk through the journey in your mind from your front door to the station using the images you’ve memorised to trigger the points you want to discuss.

A memory palace structure in 3D

Credit : (used with permission)

Old techniques, new technology


The arrival of new technologies such as ink and paper led to a decline in the importance and use of spatial memory techniques.


Dr. Ralby rediscovered these ancient techniques while pursuing his PhD in Medieval Studies at Cornell University. He recognised their value in reducing the amount of time spent memorising and rehearsing vocabulary and grammar acquisition.


Dr. Ralby developed a way of using Memory Palaces to memorise foreign languages in far less time than using traditional methods. He developed a range of courses and learning materials to support the language learner which are available from his website .


Linguisticator currently offers courses for multiple languages as well as a course containing everything a learner will need to apply the Memory Palace technique to learning a language. An additional ‘core’ course teaches the learner all the fundamental concepts of linguistics.


With VR, each Linguisticator course will be brought to life in 3D.

Launching Macunx VR at Barclay’s Rise in London

Credit : (used with permission)

Virtual Reality will bring memory palaces to life


With Macunx VR, Dr. Ralby and his team are bringing the memory palace concept to back to life in an emerging, exciting medium. Students will create their own virtual memory palaces from scratch or access pre-built palaces. 3D will allow a learner to enter a virtual environment and interact with the language, enabling them to learn and retain enormous amounts of information quickly with full retention.


Macunx VR was seeded with a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 that was 395% funded and raised £12,000 in 30 days from 168 backers. In 2017 this was supplemented by a £30,000 grant from the European Regional Development Fund’s KEEP+ programme. With the funding they have hired a full-time graduate from the University of Westminster to work on platform development. Their goal is to complete development by mid-2018.


The platform will be developed to accommodate the learning of a range of subjects, not just foreign languages.


The Macunx VR team hopes to breathe new life into the ancient memory techniques with the help of VR, enabling an entirely new generation of learners to achieve their learning goals faster and with less effort than ever before.