Greek start-up Kinems employs a game-changing approach to video game-based learning that’s making a difference in children’s lives.
Greek Start-up: Kinems
When you think of video games, you think of fun. For entrepreneurs Symeon Retalis and Michael Boloudakis, they envisioned that fun to also be highly educational. That’s how they created a breakthrough movement-based interactive learning gaming platform called Kinems, designed to help children with learning difficulties. Symeon explained the evolution of the idea.
“We saw there was an obvious benefit to applying these interactive technologies for these children. That’s how we started experimenting with movement-based learning games. It proved to be very successful.”
Symeon and Michael were conducting educational technology research for years when they began working with special educators and therapists. This provided the knowledge to start Kinems in 2013. The games they create tie in movement therapies, academic learning, precise personalization, and progress tracking. Their gaming formula improves the skills of children with motor impairments and learning difficulties including those diagnosed with dyspraxia, autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyscalculia. Symeon spoke about where the games are used.
“Our games are very useful for special educators and occupational therapists that work with students who have individualized educational programs (IEPs) as well as for all children who need to become more active learners.”
The games are based on kinesthetic learning, which is a learning style that helps kids understand ideas through touch or physical movement. It is so successful, that Kinems has partnered with Microsoft and Intel. Students use their body and hand gestures while playing Kinems games that utilize 3D depth cameras, like the Intel RealSense and the Microsoft Kinect.
Technology and learning more
Students with disabilities have both academic challenges and movement-oriented challenges. Symeon said that many times, such difficulties are rooted in the same neurological dysfunction. Recent developments in cognitive science and pedagogy have shown that embodied learning models, which are based on the premise that the human body can play a significant role understanding concepts, are helpful solutions to breaking learning barriers.
“By placing students in interactive activities during the learning process, their bodily movements and senses can influence cognition. That means when students are called to answer a gap-filling word exercise or a math quiz, that student needs to perform body activities that will promote balance, visual perception, and bilateral coordination help get to an answer.”
Kinems games are designed to improve a range of skills, including hand-eye coordination, short-term memory, attention span, sequencing, following directions, and problem solving Each game is completely customizable too.
Learning games are also being studied by scientists. Some findings from peer-reviewed publications and in-depth studies of kinetic and learning analytics prove the games have had a positive impact on children’s academic performance and improved cognitive, motor and academic skills.
Kinems faced the typical start-up challenges, Symeon revealed, including how to gain traction in the market and finding clients. What pushed the Kinems team forward was winning an award at the Innovation and Technology Competition in Greece. That win allowed them to apply to the Amsterdam StartupBootCamp and MassChallenge accelerator programs. They were chosen as one of the most innovative companies.
Since then, Symeon reported that Kinems has attracted “smart money”, including notable investors who are very successful entrepreneurs in the educational technologies field.
Today, Kinems headquarters is based in New York. There is also a branch office in Piraeus, Greece which conducts part of the research and development. However, the economic crisis in Greece continues to affect business.
“It is not easy to ignore the socio-economic situation. Friends and family have been affected by the situation. However, on the other hand, having a competent research and development team in Greece means high cost savings.”
Symeon indicated that the salaries of good engineers and multimedia artists in Greece are by far lower than the ones in the U.S. The downside, he said, is due to “brain drain”, which has made it hard to attract talent and easily expand the team in Greece as he had hoped he would.
Success for Kinems ahead
The co-founder added that the company is looking toward a bright future. The team indicated that more U.S. schools are happily utilizing the learning platform with a retention rate at 94 percent. He said the enthusiastic comments from children, teachers, occupational therapists, and superintendents have been the best encouragement. Kinems is also currently developing a home edition, which is now in pilot phase.
“Our ultimate goal is to see children smile, being happy and improve while performing our game-based learning activities. This is the happiest and most rewarding moments of our business lives.”
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