Wearables and 4K TVs weren’t the only shiny and new objects introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.
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One Laptop Per Child, launched in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte out of MIT’s Media Lab, continues its mission to help impoverished kids through low-cost laptops and connected devices. And as always, proceeds from sales of the XO laptops it released in 2007, designed by Yves Béhar, and new tablet are used to help fund devices for even more needy kids.
From its booth space in partner Vivitar’s pavilion, it introduced two new XO tablets, both bearing the bright green rubberized casing that has been the hallmark of its design. Based on Google’s Android operating system, an updated 7-inch tablet will sell for $150, while a new 10-inch based tablet, due this spring, is priced at $200. They’re being sold through retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Toys ‘r’ Us and Wal-Mart.
OLPC also introduced two new accessories: the XO digital microscope and and an XO telescope.
More than 3 million laptops have been distributed since 2007 in 60 countries, said Giulia D’Amico, executive vice president of the OLPC Association in Miami. “Our goal has been to be disruptive in education,” D’Amico said. “The population impact from the distribution of those laptops is more than 50 million when you consider parents, siblings, grandparents who also have access to these devices.”
The tablets, which run Android and Google Play’s store and lets kids watch video and access the Internet, also include OLPC’s software that encourages kids to explore occupations and disciplines through a learning system built around a year-old, multi-language interface called “Dreams.”
There are more than 20 Dreams category — from Artist and Astronaut to Doctor, Engineer and Mathematician to writer — through more than 200 apps as well as hundreds of books. The content was developed by OLPC with partners who supplied the content to the non-profit organization at no cost. NASA helped work on the astronaut dream, while the Museum of Modern Art provided contributions to the artist dream, for instance, D’Amico said.
Several governments have adopted the OLPC technology and now provide devices free of charge to students. Uruguay has purchased about 1million OLPC devices, including 50,000 new tablets. Rwanda, which has bought and distributed almost 250,000 OLPC devices, even featured an image of a child using an OLPC notebook on its new currency.
When it started the project, OLPC’s goal was to produce low-cost hardware devices since so few existed. Now that that is no longer the case — Quanta manufactures the XO laptop at cost while Vivitar manufactures the tablet — OLPC says it’s focused on enriching the educational environment for kids.
By the end of January, OLPC will also have a curated app store offering more than 500 apps featuring educational content that anyone can download for free. “Our goal is to show kids how to learn by doing,” D’Amico said.