Focus MRS, a mixed-reality virtual learning platform, has secured a £150,000 seed investment from Jenson Funding Partners (JFP), a start-up investment firm.
The technology is designed to enhance the teaching of practical subjects, such as construction, barbering, and personal training, with educators able to pre-record or stream 360-degree videos for students who can then watch them on their smartphone with the aid of a “low-cost” headset and VR viewer.
Focus MRS is the brainchild of co-founders Mark Paddock and Damian Chan, vocational training specialists. They have been running courses for disadvantaged learners, probationers, youth offenders, and those unemployed long-term, for several years until the pandemic stalled their business. With lockdowns prohibiting group meetings and the enforced closure of teaching venues, Paddock and Chan decided to focus on creating an alternative to Zoom and Teams, a platform that was better suited to teaching practical subjects.
“With Focus MRS, you don’t have to buy a £2,500 headset to support each learner and it’s our mission to make hands-on education accessible to everyone.”
– Mark Paddock, co-founder and CEO of Focus MRS
Focus MRS is designed to keep costs down by using Google Cardboard and rubber smartphone VR viewers to transport students to different environments. Educators are provided with a 360-degree camera to capture the lesson, which they can then upload to the Focus MRS platform. Students can log in, review their lesson timetable, select the lecture, and put on their viewer.
It is intended that the investment from JFP will be used to build out the development team and purchase new equipment to enhance the product further, such as the addition of augmented reality holograms. The company also hopes to expand its pipeline of upcoming projects and partnerships, the latest of which has been with virtual work experience provider Springpod, which supported 60,000 16 – 18-year-old students to become apprentices in AstraZeneca, the NHS, Nestle, and Airbus during the Easter half-term, allowing pupils to safely access restricted labs and hangars.
Everton FC School also used the system last year when many students were home with Covid-19. Focus MRS helped enable the continuity of training as the tutor leveraged the 360-degree camera on the pitch to give remote learners an immersive coaching experience.
Mark Paddock said: “Even before the pandemic, we recognised a market gap between video conferencing tools and VR headsets, where there could have been a suitable remote learning option to teach practical subjects. Lockdown really focused us on the issue and forced us to develop a solution.
“We’re thrilled to have found the support of JFP, an investor that understands what we stand for and a partner that’s enabled us to scale from our beta product to full commercial rollout.
“With Focus MRS, you don’t have to buy a £2,500 headset to support each learner and it’s our mission to make hands-on education accessible to everyone. With just a smartphone and Google Cardboard or our rubber viewer, students can experience a mixed-reality immersive educational experience.”