UQ Life was founded to create a smart platform for self-discovery and personal development, and it’s designed to help kids learn through collaborative games. Today, as part of TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s Startup Battlefield, the company launched with a couple of apps for child learning and development by personalizing games to match individual skill sets.
According to founder and CEO Maureen Dunne, these games are created to improve and reinforce skill development, especially in areas such as math and science. But the platform can also be used for games that help kids develop social skills.
Founder Dunne is a data scientist and educational program director, working with children to improve their learning and development. She’s spent the last several years studying developmental science and cognitive science, and hopes to apply some of that expertise to the collaborative gaming space.
There are a few advantages to using the UQ Life platform. For one thing, the platform provides users with built-in, closed social features that can be used so that students can collaborate with family members, teachers and tutors.
It allows them to co-participate in games for coaching and mentoring children. Parents act as administrators and decide who gets invited and is approved to join in gameplay. In addition to providing opportunities for mentoring, Dunne says that the social aspect also can help bring families closer together. Like for instance, by enabling grandparents to participate in the games.
Games are also multi-platform, which means that kids can play them on any number of devices — whether they be PCs, tablets, or mobile phones. The adults that participate with them can as well. So a kid can be playing on a tablet, while their grandparents are on a desktop at their homes.
In addition to the collaboration and mentoring aspects, UQ Life’s platform is also designed to enable more personalized skill development. While we usually think of recommendation engines that provide content that we would prefer based on past videos we’ve viewed or content we’ve listened to.
But UQ uses personalization technology to better understand students’ specific skill sets, as well as their needs. By doing so, it helps them develop new skills in a more targeted fashion. It’s that technology that is at the center of what UQ has built and how its platform differentiates itself from others.
At its base level, the games built on the UQ platform will provide basic educational tools to first-time users. As with any technology of its kind, the more a user interacts with it, and the more users there are on the application, the bigger the data set and the better it will be at personalization.
The team has already built a few applications for the platform, including an interactive story with six mini-games, as well as a couple of other games and toolsets for collaborative activities. But the ultimate goal is to make its platform available to third-party developers to build their own personalized skill development apps.
In fact, while the UQ Life platform is currently focused on childhood education, it can also be used in other vertical markets beyond childhood educational games. For instance, Dunne said that the same kind of personalized skill-development technology could be applied to job training or therapy.
UQ Life has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from a syndicate of institutional investors, as well as a couple of angels. The company has six full-time employees and is based in San Francisco.
Q: What’s the difference between your platform or another gaming platform?
A: It works on all devices. A big part of it is bringing together a community to support child development.
Q: Is this algorithmic, or how do you help, with experts?
A: Every aspect of the design is based on translational research and the way we structure the data is to really help a particular skill set.
Q: This feels very top-down.
A: We’re releasing our own games, but this was a platform built from the ground up to add features that aren’t available now.
Q: You could work with third party developers to get them to use your platform.
A: We’ll work with developers to make sure that they take advantage of the features we built into the platform.