OLPC tablet distribution proves concepts laid out in ‘The Diamond Age’

We don’t remember hearing about the One Laptop Per Child initiative distributing tablet computers but apparently a couple of shipments were distributed to rural communities in Ethiopia. The problem one might think of in this scenario is that the literacy rate in the two test villages was basically zero. But that’s exactly the population targeted with thr technology. The tablets were loaded with a software package called Nell. It was designed to guide a child in self learning by telling them engaging stories that include teachable moments. If you check out the white paper (PDF) you’ll find it’s pretty much the exact same teaching technique that [Neal Stephenson] wrote about in his book The Diamond Age. But keep reading that paper and you’ll see that this is because the researchers took their inspiration from that very novel.

Well the results are in and apparently [Neal] knows exactly what he is talking about. Not only did the children learn from the software, but within five months they were hacking the device (which runs Android) to get the disabled camera working.

[Thanks Alexander via Dvice]

Dog Pod Grid one step closer to reality

What’s better than one amazingly acrobatic quadcopter? How about a swarm of acrobatic micro-quadcopters? It’s not a rhetorical question, but an experimental reality. A team at the University of Pennsylvania are showing off their latest round of hovering robots which can move in formation and alter their orientation as a swarm.

You may remember us salivating over the unbelievable stunts the team pulled off with a single ‘copter back in 2010. That device needed a sophisticated camera installation to give provide feedback, and this uses the same framework. But we don’t that detracts from the achievement; it’s simply a future hurdle for the project.

The video after the break shows some of the stunts the slew of whirring devices are capable of. Watching them move as a grid, and even landing simultaneously, we can’t help but think of the Dog Pod Grid from Neal Stephenson’s book The Diamond Age. It was used as a protection system, keeping unwanted flying intruders out. Doesn’t sound so far-fetched any more, does it?

[Read more...]

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