“Do you lack the opportunity to practise with native speakers?”
“Do you fear making mistakes when speaking a foreign language?”
“Are you unable to travel abroad, making it harder to become fluent?”
VBuddies, a Cambridge City Winner of Tech Nation Rising Stars 5.0. aims to solve these problems for young people.
Co-founder, Lijia Zhang, says that “VBuddies is a social metaverse edtech platform connecting young people to exchange languages and culture with native speakers. Using virtual reality technology, users can “travel” around the world without the cost or need to travel. It is available in English, French, Spanish, German and Chinese.”
Co-founder, Jon Fearon-Jones tells us: “When the Pandemic first hit and international travel paused, we had to re-invent our Cambridge residential summer academy as a virtual academy. This enabled students to continue learning with us and ‘visit’ Cambridge from the comfort of their own homes. This experience inspired us to create VBuddies in order to positively impact learning opportunities for more young people, contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”
Lijia explains that accessibility is at the heart of VBuddies’ design. It can be downloaded on mobile, tablet and Windows computer. Using VBuddies on a Quest VR headset gives users a more immersive experience but it is not a requirement. It is free to download, free to use and free of ads. Adults and minors interact in different virtual worlds.
VBuddies is running a pilot from December 2022 and will use the feedback from users, language teachers and pedagogical researchers to help them decide on phase 2 of the development.