For the last few years, non-profit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has been steadily producing rugged, low-cost, low-power connected laptops for children in the developing world. 2.5 million units and 60 countries later, and its latest learning package is headed for decidedly First World hands courtesy of Walmart. Made by Vivitar, the 7-inch XO Tablet features a unique Dreams interface that organizes content by aspirational topics rather than by apps. Everything has been checked for age-appropriateness by Common Sense Media, and parents get to control what their offspring are able get up to on the Android device, as well as keep tabs on learning progress.
OLPC has again partnered with Yves Behar and the folks at the fuseproject to work on the overall look of the new tablet and its packaging. The San Francisco-based design agency was also behind the XO's new kid-friendly interface, where activities are offered as learning adventures spread across special zones called Dreams. The apps that a 3 to 12 year-old user gets to play with depend on which adventure is selected, so aspiring musicians, for example, will be offered a different learning experience than a user who chooses to be an engineer.
The XO Tablet is pre-installed with more than 100 free apps, along with more than 100 e-books, several videos and some educational games, and content can be accessed in either English or Spanish.
Three separate user accounts can be created, with parents deciding on how much access each has to things like the Internet or Google Play and its world of Android apps. Levels can be adjusted over time to accommodate the needs of a maturing child, and parents can view a journal that offers an insight into how the device is being used, which apps are favored and how much time is spent actually learning.
The Vivitar XO Tablet features a 7-inch multitouch display at 1024 x 600 resolution, and has a 1.64 GHz dual-core processor at its heart that's supported by 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of solid state storage, with microSD expansion. There's integrated 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, cameras front (1.3 MP) and back (2 MP), micro-USB and mini-HDMI ports, and a 3800 mAh Li-ion battery that promises almost 8 hours of life between charges. It has dimensions of 193 x 120 x 10 mm (7.6 x 4.7 x 0.4 in), tips the scales at 340 g (12 oz), and comes wrapped in a protective outer casing to help the tablet survive the inevitable bumps and knocks it will likely encounter.
OLPC has priced the new Jelly Bean learning slate at US$149.99 and it's available exclusively at Walmart.com (though OLPC is hoping to get other retailers to join up in the near future). Shipping is set to start from August 1.The device is also scheduled to be released in Canada and Europe (with French and Italian language support) later in the year.
The organization says that every purchase will be used to further develop and enhance its XO learning software to address the needs of a larger population of children and, though the XO Tablet is not currently compatible with programs running on the OLPC Laptop, moves are afoot to change that situation.
The short overview video below shows the kind of things parents and children can expect from the new device.
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