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First looks at ink on the OLPC notebook

OLPCChat.pngEthan Zuckerman has the most detailed description of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) notebook that I’ve read. It’s well worth checking out. (Silicon Vally Slueth has a demo video.)

Within his thorough post he describes the “inking” abilities of the notebook and includes a photo of an ink-enabled chat (shown at right. see Ethan’s article for larger version):

“…a graphical chat program, designed to let a student type or draw messages to another student – the chat is aware of what other students are logged on and proximate to the machine.” He continues, “…The color screen and large trackpad, which can be used with a stylus, make the tool a likely medium for artistic expression.”

Although the OLPC notebook includes a hinged display that allows the display to fold down like a convertible Tablet PC (which they call e-Book mode), there is no digitizer built into the display. The notebook includes a separate digitizing pad below the keyboard; think Nintendo DS style.

Unfortunately, from the article’s photo of the chat program, the rendered ink doesn’t look all that great. Too bad.

I’m wondering though, if this means there will be a forthcoming open source projects to leverage the ink. I know there have been projects in the past, but now there is a system to target. Might we start seeing ink rendering projects, multi-language reco efforts, math recognition, and the like. I guess it depends how serious the OLPC project is taking ink support.

A couple other things come to mind when reading about the OLPC project. Some of the goals are similar to those of UMPCs. In fact, it’s too bad that the projects couldn’t leverage each other. Of course, maybe that wouldn’t be a good idea. Manufacturing one product line could starve out components for the other and thereby drive prices up, not down.

Also, might there be some interesting software synergies between the Tablet market and the OLPC project? We’ll have to see. Project leader Nicholas Negroponte has been pretty firm in his insistence that everything be open source–but who knows, maybe he’ll realize that the software world is more intertwined than the open source-proprietary source worlds make out.

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