One Laptop Per Child Planning Next Generation of its PC

Rugged, open source, and so energy efficient it can be powered by a child manually.

by / May 23, 2008

Photo: OLPC XO-1

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is working on a new version of its XO laptop. The XO-2 will incorporate an enhanced touch screen and remain affordable for volume purchase by developing nations. XO laptops are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education, which is the goal of OLPC. These XO laptops are rugged, open source, and so energy efficient that they can be powered by a child manually. Mesh networking can give many machines Internet access from one connection.

"The delivery of the first generation XO laptop has sparked tremendous global interest in the project and provided valuable input on how to make the XO laptop an even better learning tool moving forward,"said Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop per Child."Based on feedback from governments, educators and most important, from the children themselves, we are aggressively working to lower the cost, power and size of the XO laptop so that it is more affordable and useable by the world's poorest children," Negroponte said.

"One Laptop per Child and the XO laptop are crucial to the fulfillment of the proposed UN Ninth Millennium Goal: to ensure that every child between the ages of 6 and 12 has immediate access to a personal laptop computer by 2015," said Nirj Deva, Member of the European Parliament. "It's only through access to education that young people will be able to develop the skills necessary to compete globally and to develop the solutions required to break the cycles of poverty, disease and malnutrition. Learning unites the child with the world, binds thevillage into a community, and joins that community to the globalvillage."

Key goals for the XO-2 include reducing the cost, power consumption size of the machine. The original target price of the XO laptop,  set in early 2005, was $100; and although that target has not yet been met (it is now at $188), it is clear that OLPC must aim for an even lower target price of $75. New developments in display, processor and other hardware and software technologies will make it possible to achieve that low cost in the future.

Another goal of the next generation XO laptop is to reduce its power consumption. While the first generation XO laptop already requires just one-tenth (2-4 watts versus 20-40 watts) of the electrical power necessary to run a standard laptop, the XO-2 will reduce power consumption even further to 1 watt. This is particularly important for children in remote and rural environments where electricity is scarce or non-existent. Lowering the power consumption will reduce the amount of time required for children to generate power themselves via a hand crank or other manual mechanisms.

The XO-2 will also be about half the size of the current model and approximate the size of a book. The new design will make the XO laptop lighter and easier for children to carry with them to and from school or wherever they go. The XO-2 will continue to be in a green and white case and sport the XO logo in a multitude of colors that allow children to personalize the laptop.

The new laptop will also have dual-touch sensitive displays that will enhance the e-book experience, with a dual-mode display similar to the current XO laptop. The design provides a right and left page in vertical format, a hinged laptop in horizontal format, and a flat two-screen wide continuous surface that can be used in tablet mode. Younger children will be able to use simple keyboards to get going, while older children will be able to switch between keyboards customized for applications as well as for multiple languages.

The dual-touch display is being designed by Pixel Qi, which was founded in early 2008 by Mary Lou Jepsen, former chief technology officer of One Laptop per Child and a leading expert on display technology.

The XO-2 is planned for delivery in 2010. An XO-1.5 will be released in the spring of 2009 with the same design as the first generation but with fewer physical parts and at a lower cost than XO-1.