The openmoko group announced the WikiReader - a portable touchcreen device that is pre-loaded with wiki's. While the screen is very small and not very usable for typical computing tasks it does offer:
- Capacitive touch screen interface
- Tempered glass screen for durability
- Simple 3 button design
- Updatably by micro-sd card
- Open platform (hackable)
- Standard AAA batteries (x2)
- Up to 90 hours of use per battery set
- $99 retail price
The WikiReader is used entirely off-line, it does not have any type of radio (cellular, wifi, bluetooth, etc.) but it contains 3 million wikipedia articles built in. It is upgradeable using the micro-sd card and can last up to a year on one set of batteries (with approximately 15 minutes of use per day).
Users could bring their WikiReaders to the local school, library, nearest city, etc to be upgraded with more current information. The upgraded wiki's could contain traditional K12 educational content, textbooks, medical information, agricultural information, business and people directories that are specific to each locale.
Openmoko has been behind large open-source initiatives such as the openmoko/freerunner opensource wireless phone that hasn't had as much success as they had hoped, but the WikiReader is built upon the same type of openness and should encourage hacks by the community for added features. They say:
NGOs and governments in emerging countries are key to the core value of the WikiReader. We believe an uncomplicated device with long battery life and no strings attached could bring this vast repository of knowledge to many people around the world who otherwise could not access it.
I am Christopher Segot. I have been in the eLearning field for a while now, and I believe this has some serious promise, my daughter (12 years old now) gets assigned internet related homework on a regular basis and the school curriculum specifically tells them to look at wikipedia and wikianswers for help and information. Here's a video about the WikiReader:
The $99 retail price is today and not a projected price of newer devices (read xo-2). While it is not a laptop it could provide information to remote regions where it wasn't available before.
Perhaps with the help of the community or an organization perhaps the cost could be much lower if purchased in very large quantities or in a collaboration with the openmoko group to build a more advanced device that better meets the communities needs at a price that's affordable to developing nations.
I could certainly see an offline email/rss reader that can send/receive new messages when being updated (this of course would require new processes that would require reading from the old micro-sd card before updating it)
Previously Chris Segot wrote about the Teachermate Adoption in Chicago