When the term ‘memory palace’ is used, many people inevitably think about Sherlock. The eccentric, egocentric high-functioning sociopath has a large influence on the mainstream and recurrent themes in the show, which likely  leaves an impression on many. But while intellect and knowledge may be considered separate, and creating memory palaces does not mean the user’s processing power can match the world’s greatest detective, they are incredibly useful for memory retention and, perhaps most importantly, dyslexia.

But the process of creating a memory palace has been used for many, many years, and it is an important technique to remember large amounts of data for later use. Macunx VR has tapped into this idea and has created a sandbox for users to create their own memory palaces in their own worlds – a home to walk through and create objects to retain memories.

Inspired by medieval monks, Aaron Ralby, founder of Macunx VR and CEO of Linguisticator, started researching the memory palace technique during his PhD at Cornell University. He has been teaching language learners how to build memory palaces to achieve full grammar and vocabulary retention since 2011 – and early tests have been showing that it helps with dyslexia as well. Armed with this knowledge, Macunx wants to use VR to improve memory retention, tackle dyslexia, and improve the learning of new languages and their grammatical structures.

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Earlier this week, Aaron provided an excellent talk on this in the Macunx and UKVR Launch: VR for Good event, talking through how one would memorise the first seven kings of England. Using images and linguistic connections Aaron provided an engaging and applicable example of how a mind palace can be used, and the audience was very impressed with its potential. Wolves with crowns, eagles, and elves on cars all connected together to make remembering the kings of England manageable. There is no question why the event was partnered with the British Dyslexia Foundation – it is a powerful and applicable tool which will help many people in the future, and the close relationship which  they have.

There is also no surprise  why the event was partnered with the British Dyslexia Foundation – it is a powerful and applicable tool which will help many people in the future, and the close relationship which Macunx has with the foundation will prove to be influential in the future.

The partnership will be mutually beneficial, with great applicability. However up to this point, there has been no indication of how difficult it would be to place crowns on eagles or elves on cars. The demo shown did not explore if it would be easy to create these worlds – in many games creating your own content could be difficult. Without the applicability of Little Big Planet or block structure of Minecraft, many games made a hard balance between accessibility and complexity. However, after speaking further with Aaron he assured me that the software to create these worlds are simple and hassle-free, and the tools are proficient for their needs. Whether this may be true or not depends on when people get to play around with the kit themselves, but his assurances smooth over one possible flaw of Macunx.

The event was a success, and it is exciting to watch Macunx grow with time and see where they go with the help of the British Dyslexia Foundation. The health benefits have been linked, and technology shows that it works.

The company is currently on Kickstarter and, at the time of writing, has hit its target of £3,000 to  hire a developer to help the project for the summer. This funds the free build mode, though the next target of £10,000 creates a guided mode as well.

Thomas Ffiske, Virtual Perceptions

 

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