At this past Bbworld I caught up with Mr. James Fangmeyer to hear more about his talk. Getting the opportunity to ask him a few questions, firsthand, was an easy highlight of the conference. Was almost as good as asking him a few more questions later that day! (Both part 1 and 2 of the interview can be found below. Enjoy!)
I’m here with James Fangmeyer Jr. at Blackboard’s Bbworld17 conference. Just wanted to ask you a few questions about your role with Profesor Avatar.
So, what is your role at the company?
I’m one of the cofounders at our new company, Profesor Avatar which is founded based on research at Tecnologico de Monterrey.
(Pictured below with Partner- Eduardo Luévano)
[ed. update: Profesor Avatar began as a social impact program. To keep the program sustainable, Eduardo Luévano and James Fangmeyer Jr co-founded a company to generate revenue from holographic products and services. At first, this company was synonymous with the social program, but its founders changed the company’s name to Impact Holograph after BbWorld 2017 to better distinguish the two quickly growing entities. Please see ProfesorAvatar.com and ImpactHolograph.com for information.]
And what is that company?
We provide holographs for education. We really let an expert, a teacher, be with students in another place that they couldn’t otherwise, because it’s too far away. It’s too unsafe to travel there. Or there’s just no infrastructure or education in that place.
Do you have any specific level of education in mind? Especially with my graduate professors, a lot of people are promoted and mainly concentrated on their research, so to find a good graduate professor is sometimes rare. Are you concentrating on any specific level?
We started out with university, now we've expanded to k-12 and a partner in South Africa. And we see application at all levels of education.
Is the partnership with South Africa the most developed of your initiatives so far?
It is so far. Outside of trials inside of university Its our most developed partnership. It’s with an organization called greenshoots which teaches remedial mathematics across South Africa.
- Interesting. We’ll have to link that at the bottom (or here).
- It’s a really great organization: http://www.greenshootsedu.co.za/
We’re really honored we’ve had an invitation from the government of Colombia. To help them reconstruct some of the bridges to parts of the society that have been separated because of a civil war that they’ve had in Colombia. We’ll be working on that really hard this year. And personally, I’m excited to find a partner in Asia where we haven’t gone yet, but I think we could do some great work.
Wow, you hit English, Spanish and next Mandarin?
That’s some Worldwide application, right there. Hearing your speech, it seemed like VR was a similar product. Do you have any thoughts or cost comparison on that?
I love vr. To answer your question about what’re my thoughts haha. In vr a real person can be part of the digital world. And in profesor avatar a digital person can become a part of the real world. So, you can see them in many ways as complement as 2 paths where I think education can move in the future. Our kit which is a holographic screen can be disassembled and reassembled. It’s pretty portable. It’s about the size of a large screen television but it weights much less and is less likely to be damaged or broken. That costs 800 dollars now. We’re in pre-sale. Ready to launch.
… Sounds a hell of a lot cheaper than Oculus!
I was just wondering about that. What is the material made out of? Is this not a fragile product?
Not really. The invention consists in some nanoparticles, which catch the light as it goes through them. This treatment can be put onto acrylic plastic or glass in high-end development. But if you put it on acrylic plastic you’re really not too worried about what’s going to touch it or where it’s going to go.
Wow, impressive. Next up I know you talked in your speech about how a lot of education is non-verbal. Can you expound on that a little bit?
Sure! The human person uses their entire body when they communicate. We hear with our ears. We see with our eyes. We really feel with our hearts. All of that engagement is what helps a student retain information. And if they’re trying to learn something at a distance they sort of miss that human element. With Profesor Avatar we get that back. It’s about experiencing that human element, even if you’re learning it at a distance.
That was something I was really impressed by, the clarity with which the image comes through. You could really see that during your speech and I can see it standing here (even though it doesn’t come out quite so good on an iPhone). I’m also a fan of vr but you almost feel like that’s another element it has on it, I’m not sure when Vr is going to get the subtleties of body language.
Thank you. It’s something we’ve been lucky to develop with our product.
Okay, last question... So, you were talking about how you’ve entered 4 sample countries so far, including your partnership in South Africa, what were the previous learning environments like in those (locations). Was it a rural village feel, where they get brand new tech?
A mix. We’ve gone into universities across Latin America; Guatemala, Chile, Peru, and Mexico and what we’ve been able to do is take local expertise in those places and make them international. Take engineers out of a plant in Peru or professors from Guatemala and put them live with students in 4 different countries. So, the ability there is to enhance the infrastructure that already exists and complement it with a specialty from a different part of the world.
That’s very impressive. Well it sounds like you have a great product. It was very nice to meet you! Let’s end on a lighter note. Do you have any quote or favorite movie you want to share with our audience?
Hahah. Everyone has the right to education! There we go, that’s a quote for you!
Ahh haha okay. Very nice to meet you James.
(Later that day...)
So, I was just wondering whether you think Blackboard may be able to be incorporated with this.
We do. Blackboard could be a huge software solution to complement our invention in hardware. What we need, I believe, is a platform where we can put on pre-recorded lessons so students can get those on demand and watch them. And also, a platform that supports live conferencing so students and teachers can connect. So were going to meet today with Blackboard Collaborate. We think that could be an awesome partnership to help us create those virtual spaces where students can get the content that they experience with real social presence on holographic screens.
And what is your website called, if one were to per se, reach out to you?
Its profesoravatar.com and remember! Profesor is spelled with one S because our presence is based in Latin America (as he repeats Profesor in perfect Colombian tonation).
[ed note: Profesor Avatar’s sponsor brand – Impact Holograph – is online at ImpactHolograph.com]
Okay any tildas or anything in there?
No, and the page is in English. Find our contact info there and feel free to reach out!