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‘Shark Tank’ for Language Apps

Next weekend, the Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center (Tech Center) in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa will be hosting its own virtual version of the popular TV show Shark Tank, in which five first-time entrepreneurs will be vying to create the best new product to fill a need in world language education. The 2021 LaunchPad competition, now in its fourth year, will be decided on February 20, during a live, virtual event running from 3–4:15 p.m. HST, hosted by radio personality Burt Lum, of Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

The five startup companies are based in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and New Zealand. During the competition, the finalists will pitch their innovation. A panel from a wide variety of fields, including Language Magazine editor Daniel Ward, will provide feedback, and ultimately select the winner. Audience members will also cast their votes for a People’s Choice Award.

The finalists are:
• (Germany)—eKidz democratizes language development by providing easy access to its platform through mobile devices, and by tailoring experiences to specific needs of children from different cultural and social backgrounds.
• FabuLingua (Texas)—FabuLingua helps kids learn languages through interactive children’s stories by writers and illustrators all over the world. It maximizes comprehensible input through magical stories, enabling subconscious development of listening, comprehension and reading skills.
• ImmerseMe (New Zealand)—ImmerseMe is about virtually stepping into a beautiful and authentic location to learn a language. Choose from more than 3,000 interactive scenarios across nine languages: German, Spanish, French, English, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Greek and Indonesian.
• (California)—A voice-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) tutor of English as a foreign language for kids, this mobile app helps children practice their spoken English by conversing with a virtual AI-powered cartoon character—Buddy the robot. With its engaging virtual character, speech technology and adaptive learning, Buddy is making tutoring and speaking practice affordable for children worldwide.
• Syngli (Canada and California)—Syngli’s core product is an intelligent tutoring system, derived from interactive novel learning algorithms, an adaptive knowledge database and an online collaborative user community.

Both winners receive an honorary plaque, and all finalists will receive exposure and access to thousands of language educators, successful companies and The Language Flagship international network.

“One of the underlying ideas of the LaunchPad is to intersect the expertise of learning professionals with technology entrepreneurs during the nascent development of innovative and impactful learning technologies,” explained Richard Medina, project lead and specialist at the Tech Center.
To register and for more information, visit the Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center website.

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