To infinity and beyond: A computer designed to outlast a childhood

Building an extra-ordinary computer without ordinary limits


This week our team reached a remarkable milestone — we delivered 50,000 XO computers to disadvantaged children around Australia and in the process became a leading provider of technology for primary school aged children.

In a world first, we found a way to train each of the 2,500 teachers before their students received a laptop. This made our programme go viral, but also meant half of the laptops shipped were sent to schools where every child and teacher would receive one.

The programme has become a success thanks to our approach to identifying smart and innovative principals, teachers to receive and distribute the technology to children.

In our travels we stumbled upon a challenge that was too difficult to ignore, and impossible to resist:

Creating a computer that outlasts a childhood.

The Infinity

A computer designed for use by any children:

  • Flexible configurations allow for a device that is at home in any primary school in the world
  • Small enough to fit in little hands, large enough to marvel at rich, engaging content
  • Touch screens for children yet to learn their ABCs
  • Keyboards for older students exploring and creating their own futures
A computer capable of morphing and changing as rapidly as a child’s needs.

A computer designed for an entire childhood:

  • A lifespan of 10 years, not obsolete in 2
  • Robust enough to survive the classroom and the playground
  • Low cost that can be spread over time
  • Access to online communities of practice, to apps that aid all styles of learning and activities that encourage and reward student engagement

A computer a 4 year old can assemble

Inspired by observing how children learn by doing, we have designed a computer a 4 year old can construct and use — as both a laptop and a tablet.

This is crucial.

We want to imbue each child with a sense of accomplishment and responsibility from the moment they first receive an Infinity.

One size doesn’t fit all

We’ve been inspired by how children use our existing XO hardware but we’ve also been frustrated when aspects of the current XO didn’t cater to the needs of different classrooms, grades or environments — let alone the fact that these needs are always in a state of flux.

An ARM processor supporting Android may be right for children under 10, but a child in her last year of primary school could benefit hugely from the power to simply slot in a Linux or Windows supporting x86 module.

That’s one of the reasons why we went for modularity — allowing children, schools and communities to change the computer to meet their requirements — not the other way around.

Modularity also has a tremendous social benefit.

The on-going cost of keeping a device up to date is drastically reduced, and creates new means of acquiring parts. Modularity allows users to trade, swap and donate parts to suit their needs. Increasing the reach of the programme, but also allowing the less fortunate to stay current with newer technologies.

Over 300 schools and 2,500 teachers have chosen to use XOs in their schools

We can create this

Having delivered 50,000 XOs to children in 300 schools — who we continue to support — we are well placed to understand classroom needs, teacher desires, parent demands and what a computer needs to be in order to survive a child.

We also know that in classrooms with XOs, teachers agree that engagement increases and new learning opportunities become available. This is an experience that needs to be brought to children around the world.

We are already creating the Infinity

One Education, a One laptop per Child off-shoot, is a global initiative to ensure every child in the world has access to a relevant primary school education. The world outside school that these children are growing into is connected and digital.

This is happening right now.

That’s why every primary school child needs access to a computer at school, and that’s why we are bringing this computer to life. The concept stage is over, industrial design is well underway, and the electronics prototyping is being developed right now — using smart, open technologies (stay tuned for the detailed tech spec article in coming weeks).

We’re on track for a fully functional prototype, and a crowdfunding launch later this year.

If you think you can help or would like to collaborate, get in touch!

One childhood, one computer.

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