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Eagle-based start-up launches Virtual Reality standardized test prep

An Idaho-based startup is hoping to help you study for your upcoming exams, but leave your flashcards and workbooks at the door. 

Librarium is a combination video game and study aid for users of Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headsets that hit the app store on Thursday. The app, which was developed in Eagle, allows users to study for standardized tests like the SAT, the medical school entrance exam MCAT and other subjects with questions designed and submitted by users using virtual reality technology. 

Duane Mathes, the founder and CEO of Librarium, has been involved with game design at several companies and virtual reality gaming through the Idaho Virtual Reality Council for years. He has always been thinking about educational applications for the new technology, but the market so far had mostly only created games for leisure.  

“I used to give talks about education in VR and the promises that VR can bring outside of gaming and the one that inspired me the most was education,” Mathes told BoiseDev. “Imagine you’re learning about Mars and you can go stand on Mars or go inside a human cell or go to the Coliseum if you’re learning about ancient Rome. I’d always get these Dads coming up to me after my talks saying ‘I should get VR for my kids and I’d have to be like ‘Sorry nothing exists yet’.” 

The Librarium app was built in collaboration with test prep company Kaplan, which creates study materials for a range of exams that hundreds of thousands of students take nationwide each year. The app is available for $19.99 on the Quest App Store and if you’d like to use Kaplan accredited materials you can purchase their whole catalog for $29.99 or bundles of specific subject study guides for $3-6 each. 

How does it work?

Mathes drew upon his experience studying in Asia for the inspiration to create Librarium. 

The app is largely based on the centuries-old mind palace study technique he used while trying to memorize large amounts of vocabulary and characters when he was working on learning Chinese. To use the technique, students use their mind to create a network of rooms inside their mind. Then, in order to help you memorize certain words or pieces of information, you can associate certain words or concepts with objects inside the imaginary room. 

Instead of the room being inside your mind, in Librarium the VR allows you to use technology to use the technique. A video demonstration of the app shows the user walking around a virtual library where there are a variety of objects, each tied to a certain concept or idea. You can pick up an object to see the word or concept it’s associated with to test yourself, and help you connect certain objects that may remind you of a word or phrase with the concept. If you mark a word off as memorized, you gain points on the subject’s leaderboard but if you don’t have it down, then Librarium will show it to you more often in the room. 

A screenshot from Librarium. Courtesy of Librarium

Librarium also has a specific function to memorize acronyms or lists of items that go with a certain word or phrase. Mathes said this process helps link the part of your memory that stores experiences and spaces with words and academic knowledge, making your recall stronger. 

“You can apply it to anything and what (memory palace does) is you have a trick where you walk around where you’re familiar with and visualizing the items you need to memorize in that environment,” he said. “You tell yourself that story and through that it integrates your spacial memory and when you’re forced to recall the information you visualize yourself remembering what you saw in each spot.”

On launch day, Librarium will have materials for studying the SAT and the MCAT, including smaller bundles on subjects like physics, biochemistry and anatomy. The app will also have hundreds of community-created flashcard decks for users to go through, which will be free, for anyone who has purchased the app. Users will also be able to create customized flashcard decks of their own for whatever they are studying.

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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