Chinese Cubes: Augmented Reality Comes to Language Learning



Chinese is the world’s fast growing language, at a 195% growth rate. It’s certainly not easy to learn as a second language, but Chinese Cubes is a novel way to pick it up quickly and effectively. Yes, they are physical cubes. In fact, they’re Augmented Reality Cubes that you place in front of a computer and they come to life, teaching you Chinese. It’s like having a teacher (or if you’re an R2D2 fan, a droid) in the room with you. There are also CUBEBooks, that teach Chinese through stories.

Whether you’re a beginner or you already know a bit of the lingo, you can listen to stories, see how characters are written, touch them to hear the translation, practice what you’ve learned through games, and generally have a good time while you learn. Talk about learning the basic building blocks of a language! Chinese Cubes president Jesse Poe is here to tell us how this award-winning platform works.

Tell us about the product.

ChineseCUBES teaches Chinese as a 2nd language with digital-tactile cubes and multi-platform content. While having not only a modern and novel approach that smashes the “fear factor” of learning Chinese, we also have 30+ years of Chinese content from children’s books to classics to well, …the Hunger Games.

Here’s a 60 second overview:

How is it different?

We make a set of physical cubes, each with it’s own Chinese character on it. Our software recognizes the cubes and shows you how to read, write, speak, and combine characters to make new words and phrases. 40 Cubes can make up to 2,500 phrases and sentences.

We combine this system, with a browser-only version of it (for adults and school computer labs, etc.), and we also have a massive library of interactive eBooks that use the cube system in a story setting, from children’s books to business books. These are supported by 15-second online videos that teach you one word and phrase at a time in quick succinct snack-able ways.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

There are 40 million people learning Chinese as a 2nd language worldwide, and one million in the US. It is the world’s fast growing language at 195% growth rate. We are foremost targeting Zero Level learners – those with no previous exposure to the language – and building up from there. It is also being used by Chinese parents to teach their children literacy.

Beyond that, we are developing the same system for Native Chinese Speakers to use our system to learn English, Spanish, French, etc.

What is the business model?

Our system is multi-platform:

  • AR CUBES is a physical/digital product: $149 & $299
  • WebCUBES is a browser based version subscription model: $3.99 a month
  • CUBEBooks are interactive ebooks: Free, $1.99, $3.99, $7.99
  • CUBE Videos are free just follow us on Instagram or Youtube

We also offer institutional package subscriptions for libraries and schools, etc.

Rex How, Founder of ChineseCUBES, has been in publishing for the last 30 years and we are able to provide content for these libraries from his existing material, as well as new materials through his existing partnerships.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within 6 months?

We plan to add an additional 300 books into our CUBEBook library, launch our marketing campaign, and finish our Series A round.

We also hope to broker a deal with NYC DOE to place ChineseCUBES in all disadvantaged schools as an afterschool option.

Recently, we launched in-person classes with our Retail Partner Idlewild Bookstores (three locations in NYC/Brooklyn), so we hope to grow that to full capacity this summer.

If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?

Craig Shapiro, Founder of @Collaborative Fund. I have been a fan since GOOD. I like what he does. If I was a VC, I’d want to be on his team. We would be a good fit for his portfolio, and he seems like the kind of person who, even if we weren’t a perfect fit, would make introductions that we really need.

Why did you launch in New York?

For me, New York is my home. For the company, it is great because there is so much talent here, a strong Chinese community, and also because so many of the great publishing houses are here, which we have relationships with.

Our founder is interested in learning Chinese. How long will it take him to learn using your system?        

That’s great! If he can dedicate 15 minutes a day, then he can go through our AR CUBES learning software in four months. If he adds in our CUBEBooks and videos, he’ll go twice as fast.

Where’s the best happy hour in New York?

I have a 16 month old daughter, so it’s DSK’s Beer & Babies for me, hands down. My local Brooklyn Biergarten, Der Schwarze Kölner in Fort Greene, pushes the tables and chairs to the edge of the room and covers the floor with foam play mats and kids toys. The kids have a blast, while the parents have beers sitting in a circle around them. Nothing like a great beer, a warm breeze from the open windows and an excited hug from your baby girl while talking shop with other parents. A brat, a beer and a playgroup for $12 are hard to beat.


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