Standing on the shoulders of giants:
This project would be impossible for any one team to accomplish on their own. But by working together and standing on the shoulders of giants that have taken us this far already, we may just create something bigger than the sum of our individual efforts.
The project so far has been about building partnerships and connections to include many of these Giants, and here are some of the most recent:
Global Literacy Project:
We are continuing our involvement with the Global Literacy Project (GLP) a consortium of academic and community institutions including MIT, Tufts & Georgia State University. Over the past 18 months they have spearheaded research into the viability of an autonomous instructional education in some of the most isolated regions of our world. Over the coming weeks and months we will start to work together on an open source platform and discuss further collaboration opportunities.
GLP currently have 600 devices deployed around the world in their second phase of tests. In the next phase they hope to deploy tens of thousands more.
Sugata Mitra, SOLE's and TED
There are some key visionaries that are shaping new ways to think about education, Sugata Mitra is one of those visionaries. He recently won the 2013 TED prize for his remarkable work developing the self organizing learning environment (SOLE) approach.
Through 15 years of field studies he conducted in the rural slums of India he found that children can teach themselves almost anything if they are given the right environment and tools. This month we met up with him and some of his team to workout how we could support each other.
The Dev4X platform is being designed from the ground up to work in the poorest of environments where the children themselves will need to become one another's teachers and guides. This environment lends itself very well to Sugata's SOLE's and we are working on these being one of the initial social learning activities that will be incorporated into the platform.
In addition to Sugata, we have reached out to other TED alumni that are working on similar initiatives around the world, with a few of those conversations seeming like they are going in a positive direction. More on that later I hope.
Natural Language Processing
A great deal of time is being spent on finding the right people and teams to help us, people who share our passion for solving this grand challenge and have the right motivation to do so.
One of these passionate teams are the folks at Princeton AI who developed a chat bot in the early 2000's as a hobby project, and earlier this year found that it beat the Turing Test (An historic milestone in artificial intelligence set by Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science). For this project we will be using their far more advanced version, now updated and made specifically for this project.
We recognize that the children using our platform will need a natural language interface, we want them to be able to interact with the device as they would a teacher. We want them to be able to ask it questions and for it to then become uniquely adapted to each child, building on each conversation and using what was discussed previously —just as we humans do.
In addition to Princeton AI, we have also started investigating the use of IBM Watson and are testing out it's use together with the IBM watson developer challenge winners who are creating a smart toy prototype using Natural language and voice technologies.
A free decentralized network
Another key resource requirement has been to find a team experienced in mesh networking and we are happy to have found the Serval Project with whom we are now working.
Mesh networking will be a key technology that we will be deploying into these environments as an important part of the platform. It will connect each device to each other and allow the platform to initiate collaborative and social learning scenarios (you can read more about it here). In addition, for the large number of communities that find themselves in conflict zones, areas without any communication infrastructure, or in areas that censor and monitor communications, the mesh network will provide them significant added utility. The children and their communities will be able to use these networks to phone, message, and communicate with one another for free on a decentralized network.
We recognize that there are many initiatives working to solve various elements of this grand challenge, or individuals that want to make a difference. No matter who you are, if you are like minded, then lets work together on this open source project.
By working as a community and standing on the giants' shoulders that have taken us this far already, we may just create something bigger than the sum of our individual efforts.