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OLPC Now Distributes Kid-Friendly Tablets, Not Just Notebooks (Video) 55

Posted by Roblimo
from the less-costly-than-even-a-few-years'-worth-of-textbooks dept.
Giulia D'Amico, Business Development VP for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) talks about the new OLPC tablets, which are now available in the U.S. through Target, Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers, with some of the $150 sales price for each tablet going to support the OLPC project in places like Uruguay, Cambodia, Rwanda, and other countries where a tablet loaded with teaching software is a way better deal than trying to supply all the books a child needs for six or eight years of school. While there are many Android tablets for sale for less than $150, Giulia points out that the OLPC tablets contain up to $300 worth of software. Plus, of course, just as with almost any other Android device, there are many thousands of apps available for it through Google Play. And let's not forget the original OLPC laptop. It has been redesigned, and renamed the OLPC XO-4 and looks much cooler than the original. You can learn more about it through olpc.tv, which has videos from the introduction of both the OPLC tablet and the XO-4 at CES 2013. OLPC has shipped close to 3 million laptops so far, and is working to port Sugar to Android so that the laptop and the tablet can use the same software. One more thing: OLPC is now focusing on software rather than hardware. When the project started at MIT, back in 2006 or so, there was no suitable hardware available. Today, many companies make low-cost tablets and keyboards for them, so there's no real need for OLPC to make its own instead of using existing hardware.

Robin Miller: I am Robin Miller as you know and I am on the horn with Giulia. Giulia, how do I say your last name?

Giulia D’Amico: Giulia D’Amico.

Robin: Giulia D’Amico of OLPC – One Laptop Per Child. Now it is a double organization. Giulia is with Miami and it is called

Giulia: OLPC Association.

Robin: So in Miami is the OLPC Association. That’s what Giulia D’Amico is affiliated with. But there is still the OLPC group up at MIT, is there not?

Giulia: Yes, we do have two organizations: One is a foundation, and one an association. Both are nonprofit entities. The reason why the association was founded at the same time as the foundation was because of the startup. The foundation is a 501c3; the association is a 501c4, meaning that we can do end to end logistics of sending a purchase order to the manufacturing company and distribute laptops, while the foundation is more focused on research and development and donations.

Robin: Also since then, as the association, you have tablets as well, have you not?

Giulia: Yes, we actually did develop since the last year the XO tablet, this one, that is currently selling at Wal-Mart as well as Amazon and other US retailers. Five years ago, six years ago, when we started it was impossible to find an inexpensive hardware that was suitable at a very low cost.

Nowadays, there are plenty of hardware that are really good quality at a low cost, so where OLPC is focusing in the last year, is precisely on the overall user interface and user experience, that it came out with the XO tablet under the name of XO LearningSystem - that is an ecosystem of apps, some proprietary that we designed, some others coming from third parties, like Discovery Communications, Oxford University Press, Leggo, Common Sense Media, MyCityWay from BMW, and tons of content coming from UNESCO, the education and cultural arm of the United Nations.

And what we have been trying to do is actually to get all this content together, bilingual English and Spanish, preloaded in the tablet so that parents or educators do not have to search for it. Because in Google Play you find hundreds, thousands of apps but you don’t really know what is good or what is not good for your child. So we did this overall curation process and we put it there, and one of the major differences is that first of all, this is the first bilingual tablet for kids, and at the same time, if you were to purchase all this content on Google Play we embedded it in the tablet cost, there is a value of around $300 of apps that are all preloaded for free.

Robin: So that is why I would pay at Walmart or wherever $150 for the OLPC tablet rather than $75 for ‘no name’ tablet?

Giulia: Correct. Not mentioning, so you have $300 worth of content that we keep on updating. You got the content whole bilingual, it is all set up with parental controls, so you actually don’t need Internet you just leave this in the hands of the kids,you set up your parental controls, and you can be sure that your child is not navigating to Internet or is not going to go into some weird type of websites or application, is not going to download the application also, and at the same time it comes with the cover, that is the hard design that makes the overall product easy to carry with a handle and at the same time ruggedized. So in case it falls, nothing is happening. And at the end of the day, if the child is no longer using the tablet, at the end of the day, then you can just switch it to the Android mode and it is a Google certified tablet with a Google Play store that every adult can use it.

Robin: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that, because to me it makes a difference between a long time usable tablet and one that does not use Play store. If it has it then it is good to go.

Giulia: It is good to go. Exactly. And we will keep on uploading and updating the software and the current apps so that in order to give even more stronger experiences for the kids, especially the proprietary ones that you cannot find on Google Play.

Robin: I would like to get those on mine maybe, because I have those grandchildren and they are at the age, well actually they are just at the beginning of the adult age but I have some littler ones coming up; in any case

Giulia: Well, one of the interesting things that you can do with this tablet, for instance, if you have multiple children using it, you can set up multiple profiles, each one of them protected with password, and for each one of them you can decide whether you want to enable or disable the parental control system. And most importantly for an adult, you can keep track of what the child is doing. Because we developed an application that is called the Journal and the Journal is a set of analytics and dashboards that are telling you for every profile how much time they are spending on each dream category or under each topic.

And they are keeping track on a daily, weekly, monthly usage. We are also trying to help the adults or the educators by giving them an understanding on what is the child’s profile in that specific timeframe. We connected all those analytics over an algorithm that we designed to the Howard Gardner seven types of multiple intelligences, basically it is an assessment of the child profile on that specific timeframe, so whether the child has more logical, or visual or artistic type of intelligence. And we are giving advice and tips to the adults if they want to nurture that specific interest, these are the books or the apps, for free or paid apps, that you can in addition upload the content that you can get if you want to help your child.

Robin: Let me ask you how that works in a much more basic way. Let us assume we have two young girls: We’ll call them Rache and Marina. Is there a way to just tell how much time Rache for instance has been on the tablet today or this week, because if she is sharing it with Marina, trust me this is important.

Giulia: No, because as I said, every child has its own profile. So basically, every child that can get into his or her profile, that is closed, secured with a password

Robin: I understand, but can I as a parent say Rache has had the computer for x number of hours?

Giulia: Yes, and I can even say that Rache for like the first week, has spent three hours on math, and two hours on music.

Robin: I know that’s nice. And that’s wonderful. But job number one is to prevent: “MUMMYYYY, RACHEL WON’T GIVE ME THE TABLET IT’S MY TURN!!! “ We have to stop that, or nothing else makes any difference.

Giulia: No I understand. Well, I mean ideally, we have always been advocating one to one, one laptop or one tablet per child.

Robin: We’d like that.

Giulia: But in case it is not doable for many scenarios even in the United States, we make it in a way that everybody in the family can use it and feel and have the opportunity to keep track of their progress.

Robin: Okay, let’s forget the United States. One Laptop Per Child was originally sold to the world as a third world thing – Cambodia, Latin America, Africa. How does the tablet work in with that?

Giulia: I would say that the regional mission of OLPC was to provide quality education opportunities to the majority of children all over the world, and the reason why Nicholas Negroponte wanted to focus on the least developed countries was by providing them and by challenging the world in developing a technology that would be inexpensive-not cheap-and that would be affordable but it would be very high technology, durable, ruggedized, solar powered, dual mode screen, sun readable, but was never done for developing countries. The idea was that being inexpensive it would have helped developing countries in actually acquiring this type of technology and overall educational ecosystem embedded.

So this is how or this is started, we wanted to prioritize those countries. How OLPC evolved, as I was stating before, that because nowadays there are so many apps are out there that are doing a pretty good job, lots of manufacturing companies that are doing a very good jobs at a very inexpensive cost, at this moment in time we wanted to focus on the ecosystem. So it can be this tablet, it can be any other Android tablet or any Android device, our software will work. And this specific tablet even if it is retailing in the US, and there is a reason why, and the reason is because the US market has been demanding a lot for our devices, but without having a big giant retailer behind us, it was impossible to get any sort of any logistic type of distribution. But for every tablet sold, there is a percentage that will go in charity towards unprivileged communities around the world and in the US as well, where we will donate tablets, laptops, and we will provide teacher training and support. So for us at this moment in time with the tablet it is pretty much fulfilling the mission – trying to get a really strong software, a really strong educational ecosystem that can be distributed all over the place and can reach the majority of the kids no matter the hardware.

Robin: What about the laptops?

Giulia: We are still manufacturing laptops. We actually as we launched the tablet at CES, we also launched two new devices, the XO-4 and the XO-4 Touch Screen that is the same clam shell that is a very iconic type of design, and by the overall internal mechanical engineering that has changed over the years, and the latest one that we unveiled at CES is a touch screen device with a Marvell ARM dual core processor. So it is a much faster and robust machine, and also it is a great combination between a laptop and a tablet because it is actually a tablet with a keyboard.

Robin: Kind of like, it reaches over here?

Giulia: Well, yes, because this is our iconic laptop and the moment that you open it with the touch screen technology this is a tablet.

Robin: What does it use? Is that an Android?

Giulia: No this is on Linux. Still on Linux Operating System.

Robin: That’s fine. I like Linux. I could hold it up, except it has got stuff on top of it, I could hold another computer, or I could boot this one, reboot this one Okay, so what about the laptops, are they available in the United States?

Giulia: The laptops are not available on retailing, still we do have projects in the United States, starting from Miami, that was sponsored by the Knight Foundation, we have several schools in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we keep on expanding depending on what basically the school system is more inclined to. Some schools do prefer tablets, some others prefer laptops. Both can work and coexist in the same environment. And this is for instance the case in Uruguay where we have full saturation with our laptops and they just started with a new project of 8000 of our tablets, and both devices are going to be connected to the same servers and are going to be integrated in existing infrastructure.

Robin: Software – can they share, or is the software being ported for both?

Giulia: We do have part of the Sugar software that is part of the laptop environment in the tablet, and in our roadmap we are going to incorporate overall Sugar software in the tablet, so in Android.

Robin: So things are going back there was a time there when it seemed like OLPC was going to go away, when it wouldn’t survive, but it sounds like things are going fairly well - are they?

Giulia: Things have been always going fairly well for us, because being a nonprofit and somehow we have all the big giants that are being seen as a major competitors, that we reach out to 65 countries, 3 million plus of distributors, that means that we touch most likely 12 million people's lives, and it is quite an operation for a small nonprofit of a few people with very limited resources.

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OLPC Now Distributes Kid-Friendly Tablets, Not Just Notebooks (Video)

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  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @02:42PM (#44709021)

    So I take it they've made the entire tablet out of the same material they make airplane black boxes out of? Because I've seen children destroy things that were made out of die-cast titanium without even realizing it, let alone feeling sorry about it.

    • Better parenting usually prevents things from becoming destroyed I have found. A better parent doesn't hand a child a $800 titanium encased tablet and then ignores them for 8 hours leaving them in a room full of hammers and saws.

    • So I take it they've made the entire tablet out of the same material they make airplane black boxes out of? Because I've seen children destroy things that were made out of die-cast titanium without even realizing it, let alone feeling sorry about it.

      http://olpc.tv/ [olpc.tv] shows the devices they look pretty solid interestingly I notice the thin screen protector doubles as a solar charger, but they look very solid.

  • OLPC, now a generic Android tablet brand. Who didn't see this coming?
  • Uh, wasn't OLPC created to serve third-party countries, not first world countries?

    • Uh, wasn't OLPC created to serve third-party countries, not first world countries?

      Freudian slip?

      Anyway, it's still focused on technology-poor countries. What they've found is that they can subsidize the devices going to these countries further by selling the same product marked up into technology-rich countries, now that they've got their production line up to high capacity. Everything that goes into them, and the design of the products, is aimed at tech-pooor country feedback; tech-rich countries just have the option of paying extra for a piece of the action without affecting the actu

      • by tipo159 (1151047)

        Uh, wasn't OLPC created to serve third-party countries, not first world countries?

        Freudian slip?

        No, I have been working with integrating third party software alot at work.

        Anyway, it's still focused on technology-poor countries. What they've found is that they can subsidize the devices going to these countries further by selling the same product marked up into technology-rich countries, now that they've got their production line up to high capacity. Everything that goes into them, and the design of the products, is aimed at tech-pooor country feedback; tech-rich countries just have the option of paying extra for a piece of the action without affecting the actual design decisions (much).

        I disagree. The XO tablet is a generic Android tablet and, unlike the XO laptop, the hardware is not designed for use where there is no service center. It is a sealed unit that is hard to repair if it breaks and the primary user surface is glass. The laptop was repairable and more robust and rugged than the tablet.

        It is hard to tell if the original business plan was workable or not; it ended up being undercut by Wintel who di

    • Yes, it was a program put in place to trade laptops for children. That business model struggled, as the management team failed to account for the costs to feed all the children it received in trade. They are hoping that the new business model offering one tablet per child will be more profitable.

    • by steveha (103154)

      Uh, wasn't OLPC created to serve third-party countries, not first world countries?

      Why can't they do both?

      One of the big criticisms of the original plans with the XO-1 was that they didn't mass-produce the thing and get the costs as low as possible. Instead of stacks of XO-1 laptops on the shelves at Wal-Mart, they only let you buy one if you paid double the price for it in the "Give One Get One" program. I don't think they ever really had a prayer of getting the cost under $100 with the original device, b

    • Uh, wasn't OLPC created to serve third-party countries, not first world countries?

      Seriously have you had a look at Detroit lately? It is making some places in the so called third world look advanced. I don't think the Detroit public schools can afford to hand out iPads. Besides what good is a school system that relies upon system locked text books and expensive proprietary devices. I can see that standard text books can easily become something which are operating system agnostic and any move to make electronic text book media exclusive to one operating system like Apple or Microsoft sho

  • The software organization looks very interesting:

    OLPC has organized this content into Dreams to match the aspirations of children 3-12 years old. Each dream features a potential career and related applications organized into beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill sets.

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @02:57PM (#44709189)

    ... there are many Android tablets for sale for less than $150, Giulia points out that the OLPC tablets contain up to $300 worth of software ...

    Is anyone buying this? I doubt very much that there is any of that supposed $300 worth of software that there isn't as good or better free alternatives for. And this was supposed to be an organization that was based on free and open software. As the summary points out, there are many Android tablets available at far less than $150. And those are produced by "for profit" companies, not supposed non-profits (although I expect some pay their chief executives less that the OLPC executives skim off the top).

    I see this as just another OLPC fail, at least as long as your not one of the ones cashing those OLPC paychecks.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      OLPC years ago published articles that the 3 core parts of the project:

      1) A logistics of delivery of expensive items to the truly impoverished
      2) A hardware platform designed to be inexpensive and usable by children in substandard working conditions
      3) An open ecosystem of learning software

      were in natural conflict. They hadn't realized it at the time but now the did and so they forked 1,2 and 3 into separate projects.

    • Is anyone buying this? I doubt very much that there is any of that supposed $300 worth of software that there isn't as good or better free alternatives for. And this was supposed to be an organization that was based on free and open software. As the summary points out, there are many Android tablets available at far less than $150. And those are produced by "for profit" companies, not supposed non-profits (although I expect some pay their chief executives less that the OLPC executives skim off the top).

      What next, are you going to tell me that when I buy a cheese slicer with a dozen attachment doohickeys from an informercial for $19.95, it's not actually a $300 value?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      well .. perhaps "all the books a child needs for six or eight years of school" is categorized as "software" ? .. in that case, it might be a pretty good deal. Dead tree versions can be pricey .. definitely more than 300 bucks, if you consider the required books for 8 years of schooling.

    • by westlake (615356)

      I doubt very much that there is any of that supposed $300 worth of software that there isn't as good or better free alternatives for.

      That was the sales pitch when the XO tablet was launched.

      Distribution: 1.8 million units. Most to Peru and Uruguay. That's a slight exaggeration. But not by much. One Laptop per Child: Deployment of XO laptops [wikipedia.org]

      It was the "New Math:"

      The Media Lab knows all. One size fits all.

      No need for a teacher. The geek can get the job done. Through the magic of open source software.

  • Years ago I wanted to purchase the original OLPC Give 1 Get 1 but wasn't able due to payment issues and not being in the US. I remember cursing on the 31st of December as I watched the deadlne pass.

    So while this is very different from their first tablet, both in business model and openess, it still is something a bit different than most tablets offered by the competition.

    <shamefull_plug> That's why we accepted to donate our kid educational software (DragonBox5+ / http://www.dragonboxapp.com/ [dragonboxapp.com]) to

    • by cusco (717999)
      When the original OLPC came out (I did manage to get one during G1G1) everyone had been laughing at the concept of a sub-$200 laptop even being possible, much less usable. The entire netbook/chromebook market segment exists because it was pioneered by OLPC. I'm glad to see that they're porting Sugar to Android, but I wonder if the tablets are going to be as robust as the laptops have been. Hopefully they'll be field serviceable, the way that thousands of kids all over the world are servicing OLPCs in the
  • We recently got two 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablets for our kids. We splurged for the Otterbox cases because those tend to be very sturdy. (We have one on our iPad and it survived a pretty decent fall with no damage.) The cost for a Tab 2 and Otterbox case? About $210. Looking the specs over, the OLPC model seems to have a slightly faster processor, less MP rear camera, and more MP front camera. Otherwise, they look pretty similar.

    The built-in parental controls are nice, but I've found some free A

    • When I read the parental control section, it scared the shit out of me. Are we learning our kids today that total surveillance is good? That Big Brother is part of the family? I would rather have that parents pry the device from their children's hands and lock it away instead of conditioning them to be monitored always.
      • No, parental control software is to be used for kids who are old enough to use a device on their own, but not old enough to completely understand that certain actions can get them into trouble. My oldest son is 10 years old. He doesn't need constant supervision when he uses he tablet (and we couldn't constantly supervise him if we wanted to). However, partly due to his age and partly because he has Asperger's Syndrome, he's very naive about how the world works. He understands intellectually that there a

  • So they intend to replace 6 - 8 years worth of books with a tablet? How long are these cheapest of the cheap pieces of hardware actually last?

    • by cusco (717999)
      Last year my sister-in-law in Peru finally retired the Windows 95 laptop that we gave her in 2001, when we gave her a new laptop. My niece is still using the second-hand laptop that we gave her in 2006. IOW, they'll last a frack of a lot longer there than they would here, people will treat them with care because they're (comparatively) expensive and important.
      • But how easy is it to replace the rechargeable lithium ion batteries in these tablets? Most laptops from the Windows 9x era have removable batteries.
      • Last year my sister-in-law in Peru finally retired the Windows 95 laptop that we gave her in 2001, when we gave her a new laptop. My niece is still using the second-hand laptop that we gave her in 2006. IOW, they'll last a frack of a lot longer there than they would here, people will treat them with care because they're (comparatively) expensive and important.

        I am writing this on an IBM T42 that was sold to me by the Gov of BC for 75 bucks. LOL It has lasted and works better than today's netbooks, at least running Linux. When I go to a coffee shop and type out a document or send an e-mail or phone someone with Google talk, use Google Earth to map out a trip or whatever like it was a more expensive newer i5, it amazes my boss who struggles doing the same things with his slow as a dog Sony 3 year old piece of crap with Windows 7.

        So great hardware from 2005-2006

  • by gsgriffin (1195771) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:10PM (#44709935)
    I travel a lot around the world in 3rd world countries helping the poor. I don't think their challenge is in manufacturing or getting these out to the field. The challenge will be finding a way for the tablets to not be immediately sold for cash when the people are in need of food and medicine to survive. Heck, pass these out for free in the 1st world conditions and where will they end up. I'm sorry, but it would be nice to help the kids and schools and teachers, but none of these will be in a classroom 1 year after they are given out.
    • I travel a lot around the world in 3rd world countries helping the poor. I don't think their challenge is in manufacturing or getting these out to the field. The challenge will be finding a way for the tablets to not be immediately sold for cash

      Bill *Fuck your charity* Gates *I don't have to pay tax* agrees with you. I don't think you realise how offensive you are being, OLPC was born from from real world observation, and the benefits computing could bring first hand.

      http://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?type=webcontent&articleId=1240339 "In 1980, Sheik Yamani of OPEC funded a center to help children in developing countries and Seymour Papert and I worked in Pakistan, Senegal, and Colombia. While the Media Lab was being built as an entity

      • That's fine. I'll be offensive and you can be naive. If you find that trust and honesty and integrity is high on everyone's list all around the world, then go ahead and send out all the electronics and money you want all around the world. It's your money.
  • Just another consumerism device. Not a device for teaching kids how to create.

    A device that would actually be useful is a device that can be used to interface with the environment through sensors and be programmable to solve real world problems.

    OLPC should be working with the Raspberry Pi people to create a rugged cheap complete solution. Change the flimsy GPIO Pins to a standard Parallel connector and enclose it with a decent LCD screen with keyboard and USB mouse and you'd have a far more useful and pro

    • OLPC should be working with the Raspberry Pi people to create a rugged cheap complete solution. Change the flimsy GPIO Pins to a standard Parallel connector and enclose it with a decent LCD screen with keyboard and USB mouse and you'd have a far more useful and productive device.

      You seem very confused. The Rasberry Pi people made something that people actually wanted. That's how they achieved success. But that is the evil capitalistic way of doing things.

      The OLPC gang took a philosophically different

      • Think about this: I am a highschool drop out from an abusive home. I had to leave to avoid further abuse. Having access to computers in elementary school and at home I had taught myself to program and was making money selling my wares on Compuserve. It wasn't enough to support me, and I couldn't take my PC with me anyway on the streets -- Had I a laptop or Internet cafe I would have at least been able to feed myself while remaining homeless. The homeless shelters were a bad idea -- Upon leaving I was mu

        • by Jiro (131519)

          The serious answer to this is "that doesn't count". Yes, a computer was useful to you personally because you ended up becoming a programmer. Giving out computers on those grounds is like giving out Barbie dolls on the grounds that one of them might get a job as a Barbie doll toy designer.

          The whole idea of giving them stuff is that they are going to use the freebies as general tools, not so that they could become specialists in the jobs associated with the freebies. Yes, it would have worked in your case,

  • My favorite part from TFA:
    In this case the XO is sporting parental controls that track usage and learning styles. The tablet also has a Journal app that details and breaks all this down for the parents

    If anyone believes the information is "for the parents" I have some nice property to sell about 200 miles north of here [google.com] depending on the tide and winds.

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