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Virtual reality is off to a slow start with general audiences, but a start-up called MEL Science is betting this new media will take off in schools in 2018. The company just raised a new round of funding to take its combination chemistry sets and VR content into the classroom.
Based in London, MEL Science started out making and shipping chemistry kits to subscribers for about $50 per month. Each kit contains several experiments and all the supplies a family needs to conduct them at home.
The company's introductory kit includes its "Molecular Viewer," a modified Google Cardboard VR headset. Unlike other subscription commerce companies, MEL Science creates virtual reality lessons to supplement what it sends by snail mail.
According to MEL Science CEO Vassili Philippov, in virtual reality, budding scientists can zoom in to observe a chemical reaction at a molecular level, or get more in-depth information about the experiments they've just completed. "This is also a good way to get kids interested in science who were more enthusiastic about video games," the CEO said.
Now, MEL Science is working on experiments and VR modules for kids from kindergarten through high school to be conducted in the classroom. Its previous kits were meant for kids twelve and older.
Philippov said his company plans to develop lessons for different science subjects, always combining hands-on activities with VR experiences.
On Thursday, the start-up made "teacher mode" features available to help educators use its kits and VR lessons in the classroom. This week, it also published 28 new VR chemistry lessons for Google Cardboard and Google Daydream users.
According to a Samsung survey, more than two-thirds of teachers in U.S. schools K-12 want to use virtual reality to supplement course curriculum. And 82 percent of science teachers said they believed VR could help their students with subject mastery.
Sistema Venture Capital led its latest $2.2 million round of funding. The capital will go toward developing new content and chemistry sets for schools and making educators aware of MEL Science curriculum.