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Fresh from the lab

Aarti Dhar
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The upgraded Aakash tablet showcased by the government includes several new features

New and improved:The Aakash-2 tablet. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma
New and improved:The Aakash-2 tablet. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Even as there is a lack of clarity over the manner in which the low-cost Aakash-2 tablets would be distributed among students, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry sought to clear doubts about the usefulness and efficacy of the tablets by organising a familiarisation session on Aakash-2 for journalists to allow them a first hand experience of the tablet.

 Members of the young teams from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Powai displayed a multitude of useful educational applications in the upgraded low-cost Aakash-2 tablet. The Aakash-2 launched last month is powered by a processor running at 1 GHz, it has 512 MB RAM, a 7’’ capacitive touch screen, and a battery which works for three hours of ordinary usage.

 Aakash tablet, produced under the National Mission on Education Through ICT, had been dubbed as the world’s cheapest tablet priced at over Rs 2,200 each heavily subsidised by the government. Earlier, the government had wanted to give a tablet to every student in government colleges but now there is serious deliberation on whether schools and colleges could buy the tablets as textbooks and then distribute. This would reduce the cost burden on the children who have to buy them. 

Pradeep Verma, Advisor IIT Bombay and a core member of Project Aakash said that the team had successfully ported Scilab — Open Source equivalent of a well known commercial product Matlab, which is extensively used by scientists and engineers for solving statistical analysis, engineering design, and control systems applications – android. “We have been propagating use of Scilab by the students and teachers, thus saving a possible large outgo in license costs. In the Clicker lab, we have succeeded in developing a control application which runs on Aakash. A robot with a mounted camera can now be controlled by the Aakash tablet using a wi-fi hot spot. Students can control the movement of the robot using a simulated touch-controlled joy-stick provided on the tablet,” Mr Verma said adding that such application would be useful for virtual laboratories. As of now, there are 850 laboratories ready to function as virtual laboratories. 

 With the Clicker version, a teacher can conduct quizzes in a class, and also quickly evaluate the results, thus gauging the understanding level of the students. Clicker also provides facility of collecting the attendance automatically. The Ministry claims to have successfully used Clickers in distance mode workshop for teachers.

 Aakash can play video and audio content that can either be on the local card or on a server accessible through wi-fi. A lot of content is available through NPTEL, Spoken Tutorials, and workshop courses. ProxyMITY tool enables creation of interactive lessons, by importing lecture video and presentation slides.

The content is available in 18 Indian languages. As part of e-book reader or Aakash Pustak, over 5,000 NCERT textbooks can be accessed as part of its school education component, though the tablet is meant for higher education.

 As many as 10,000 tablets have been distributed to the university-level teachers to educate them. However, it is yet to reach the students but it is believed the students would be having access to the tablets through their teachers.

 The upgraded version has a camera and accelerometer and requires very low bandwidth to access.


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