Nine-year-old AlDhabi Al Mheiri with her many book releases. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The use of Augmented Reality (AR) in enhancing learning has been widely talked about. Now, an Emirati girl is walking the talk by launching AR books that can aid children with autism.

Nine-year-old AlDhabi Al Mheiri, a Guinness World Record holder, is the youngest publisher to release a bilingual book series. She recently stepped up her publishing interests with the launch of AR books at the global tech event GITEX 2023 recently held in Dubai.

Known as the youngest Emirati entrepreneur-cum-publisher, AlDhabi introduced the high-tech books at the Youth X platform of GITEX, along with her younger brother Saeed Rashed Al Mheiri.

AlDhabi Al Mheiri with her brother Saeed Rashed Al Mheiri introducing her books introduced the high-tech books at the Youth X platform of GITEX. Image Credit: Supplied

Saeed holds two Guinness World Records as the youngest author in the world and the youngest author to write a book series.

The founder of Rainbow Chimney, a bookstore and publishing house for children’s books and educational toys, AlDhabi pointed out that AR books can be a safe solution for learning for children including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disease (ADHD) and dyslexia.

“My humble efforts are to empower children through innovative technologies,” AlDhabi told Gulf News.

By seamlessly integrating captivating visuals, animations, and interactive features into the pages of traditional books, the immersive nature of AR technology enhances children’s comprehension, engagement, and retention, she pointed out.

AR allows students to visualise complex concepts, making learning more effective.

One area where AR books have proven to be particularly impactful is in supporting children with ASD. The interactive and sensory-rich nature of AR books caters to the diverse learning needs of children with ASD, providing them with a unique and engaging platform to explore educational content.

“These books are like regular ones, but they’re super cool because they have pictures that move and do interesting things using AR on smart devices. This makes learning from books so much more fun.”

How it helps

“AR books are more exciting and engaging. They can help kids of all abilities learn new things. Apart from autistic children, I hope these books can help other children who experience learning difficulties such as kids with ADHD and dyslexia.”

A passionate advocate for children with additional needs, AlDhabi said she believes that technology can make the lives of kids better when they have a helpful concept in mind.

AR technology uses digital elements, such as images, sound or text, to the real physical world of books to enhance the visual elements in readers’ minds.

“Imagine you’re sitting in a room. You can make your experiment with no risks. And imagine you can go to Egypt to find out about creatures or animals we don’t know about or how the pyramids were made, without leaving your class, or place,” she said, explaining the benefits of AR books.

“With AR, autistic children will be able to learn more, discover more and interact better, and children with ADHD will be able to calm down and focus. They will also be able to understand things better. Once you give AR books to children with dyslexia, they will be able to increase their learning level and it also helps them to talk correctly,” AlDhabi added.

17 AR titles

Her mother and co-founder of Rainbow Chimney, Mouza Al Darmaki, said the books come with instructions for readers to download an app and scan the code of each page using any smart device.

“They can discover digital elements and interact by sliding to open, read, and add things, such as conducting experiments, exploring inaccessible places, examining detailed internal views of our bodies, understanding what’s on each planet in outer space, and observing things under a microscope, like blood cells, and more.”

“Not only that, there are games and discovery elements on every page, which make the topic engaging rather than boring. This is the safest way to introduce immersive technology to children, as we’ve retained the traditional way of learning and combined it with immersive learning through Augmented Reality.”

So far, they have published 17 AR books. Some are for children aged up to five years and another batch is for those above six.

According to the publishers, all of them are dedicated to children and tested. “We published those kinds of books based on real case studies that show the impact of such technology for children with ASD, ADHD and dyslexia. We even had some visitors having ADHD and they were impressed that we have such technology for children,” added Mouza.

By promoting inclusive education and harnessing technology to empower children, AlDhabi feels she has achieved another remarkable milestone in her entrepreneurial journey.

Sustainability initiative

As part of her ongoing initiatives to inspire and empower children to pursue their dreams in publishing books, AlDhabi recently offered to publish children’s books that promote sustainability for free.

She also launched an interactive eco-club website that will teach kids about the environment with fun activities, games, and videos. The initiative aims to attract more than 10,000 children to raise awareness about climate change.

The concept dawned on AlDhabi after she read the words of the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. “He mentioned that everyone should participate in COP28. This made me think how children like us could also contribute to the conference.”

To reach out to more children, she has also started visiting schools and speaking to students to inspire them to become eco-warriors and make a difference in climate change.