OLPC Foundation Update: XO-3, Focus on Eastern Africa


Recently the Boston based OLPC Foundation relocated its offices from fabled 1 Cambridge Center (more widely known as 1CC) to a new office space just a couple of hundred meters from its prior location. This move comes amidst somewhat of a reshuffling of priorities for OLPC's Foundation arm.

As it moves closer to its anticipated mass production start at the end of the year (at least according to the Peruvian manufacturing announcement) the development of the OLPC's next generation laptop, the ARM based XO-1.75, is slowly being transitioned from the organization's Foundation arm to the Miami based OLPC Association. There Martin Langhoff is leading the efforts now and if you're interested in the status quo then you should watch this XO-1.75 presentation which he gave at the eduJAM! summit in early May (in both English and Spanish I might add!).

XO-3 design study shown last week

This move will free up engineering resources in Boston to focus on the fabled XO-3 tablet which we still know very little about. A comment made by John Watlington (OLPC Foundation's Vice President of Hardware Engineering) on our "Where is the XO-3?" article back in March also suggested that the widely known mockups and design studies were outdated:

BTW, we are working on XO-3. But please disregard anything you've already seen.

Looking at that latest XO-3 design study shown by Nicholas Negroponte during a presentation in Cambridge last week does show that the design has indeed changed from earlier mockups we had seen. Though of course at this point it's unclear just how close that particular design will be to any production device.

Those following the development mailing lists will also know that the Foundation has rehired C. Scott Ananian into the position of Director for New Technologies. As he explains in this blog post he is currently evaluating a couple of different software platforms as a basis for the XO-3. And yes, before anyone asks: Android is among them. But as he repeatedly emphasized at the eduJAM! summit in Montevideo in May it's early days and no decision has yet been made as to which platform will be used.

If you're interested in this development then I'd suggest keeping an eye on the respective mailing lists as well as following C. Scott's regular blog updates As a primer I would also strongly recommend watching this recording of his talk called "Sugar, Education, and Tablets" which he gave at the eduJAM! summit:

(EN+ES) Sugar, education and tablets por sugarlabs

A slightly more abstract explanation of some of the things he's looking into can be found in this 13-min video from the unconference part of the summit where he talks about Neal Stephenson's book "The Diamond Age" in an OLPC context.

If you're really into the technical details of his current efforts then I'd also strongly recommend you to watch his talk on "Android and Native Client".

On the non-technical side of things it seems like OLPC Foundation sees its future mainly in Eastern Africa. At least that was my take-away after watching Nicholas Negroponte on a panel at the United Nations Social Innovation Summit on June 6. During his presentation he mentioned that the organization was looking for $1.2 Million in funding to set up offices in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.

After hearing this I reached out to Matt Keller, OLPC Foundation's Vice President of Global Advocacy, who would be heading such an office to learn more about this development. He replied by saying that:

Both Nicholas and I believe that ... having a presence in Addis -- the capital of Africa -- is essential if we are to move forward in a profound way. The political support from the African Union, the Ethiopian government, and the East African Community could not be higher. I know the key policymakers, am close to them, and understand what we have to do to move forward. This would be an interesting direction for OLPC to move in, and I believe it's the right one.

He also pointed out that on a political level all the pieces are in place yet the lack of funding for this new direction was a major roadblock at the moment.

So overall it's safe to say that the folks working at OLPC Foundation won't be bored for the foreseeable future. I also have to say that personally I'm most interested in what happens with this potential focus on Eastern Africa and whether we're going to see a significant increase in OLPC activity in the region.

The XO-1.75 doesn't excite me too much because as the numbering already indicates this is an intermediate step more than anything else. Unlike others I frankly speaking also doubt that the move to an ARM platform will really increase its overall battery life by all much compared to the XO-1.5 machine. Though of course even a relatively modest 20% increase would be more than welcome. Last but not least with the XO-3 development it's really too early to tell what will happen but I'll definitely keep a close eye on it.

Update (2011-06-15): Please note Adam Holt's comment below for information about a public talk about the XO-3 which OLPC's Chris Ball and C. Scott Ananian will give at the organization's offices this Friday. More information about the event can also be found in today's blog post by C. Scott.


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Resumen en español al final del artículo

Last week Martin Langhoff (OLPC Association's Senior Software Architect and Technical Director) posted a short com... [more]


Thanks Much Christoph:

Plz note Chris Ball and C. Scott Ananian are giving a public talk at the OLPC Foundation this "Friday" -- engaging the engineering community on XO-3 / tablet design choices. RSVPs will be required, as seating is limited. Please watch for details on http://planet.laptop.org and on Boston's OLPC/Sugar local community mailing list, within 24hrs or so here:


Basic streaming and video recording will be attempted.

PS in the coming year I personally hope to be able to share much more news about OLPC/Foundation projects emerging in Haiti -- particularly if you join me there directly ;)

Thanks a lot for the information Adam, I've added a note about the talk to the original article.

Nice summary.

Not to be forgotten is the Foundation's ongoing efforts in the Middle-East. Indeed the interest and support for OLPC among stakeholders and the community remains very high. We started there later but like East Africa, funding is the linchpin. We are similarly exploring opportunities to have a base of operations in the region.

Extending from our deployments with UNRWA in Gaza has been our work and advocacy with Education in Emergencies and children living in fragile states. Of special interest for us and several potential partner organizations is introducing OLPC in Sudan.

It remains good work and you could't be more right, no chance of getting bored!

Robert, we'd love to hear more about OLPC's ongoing efforts in the Middle-East. Might we convince you to write a guest contribution? ;-)

I'll post more details later today, but the short version is that Nick Montfort, Chris Ball, Angela Chang, and I will be giving short talks starting at 2pm Eastern time this Friday on the general subject of "narrative interfaces". It will be webcast live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cscottnet and we'll also post higher quality audio/video afterward. Primary focus is not the talks but the discussion afterward.

We may be able to accommodate a few more people in person at the talks, but our space is (alas!) limited. Email me at cscott at laptop dot org to RSVP if you're interested in attending live, and I'll let you know how we're doing for space.

OK, full talk announcement now up at http://cananian.livejournal.com/64747.html

Great, I'll update the "update" section in the article to point people to your blog entry.

ARM means 1W laptop screen included vs 4W laptop under x86. We're talking 400% battery runtime with ARM and not 20% (where did you get 20% from?). On top of that, ARM is faster and better than x86 for Android, Sugar and even Chrome OS, a sort of combination of those is what I think OLPC needs for XO-1.75 and XO-3.

One things for sure, Intel got a big scare from XO-1 and got compelled to cannibalize x86 PC/Laptops with the netbook. That is nothing compared to the upcoming devastation that XO-1.75 and XO-3 is going to do to Intel's x86.

Hey Charbax, I was almost expecting a comment like this. All I'll say is that I'll believe in that 1W XO-1.75 laptop when I see it;-)

What's so hard to believe? 25 Billion ARM processors have been shipped, just take any of the latest ARM SoC in any of the latest smartphones and measure its power consumption without the screen, it can easilly be under 500mW most of the time. And take one of those Pixel Qi screens, backlight off you'll see that it can run at below 500mW as well. Pixel Qi makes most sence on ARM where power consumption can go from 8h with a normal LCD to 30h (+250%) with Pixel Qi while when using Pixel Qi on x86, you may only see a jump from 4h to 5h (+25%).

Hey, let's see what happens, I'd be more than happy to be proven absolutely wrong here... :-)

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