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.