It may not be an iPad killer but Aakash 2 brings with it unique features that could make it a game-changer in the education sector. Procured and assembled by Datawind on behalf of the HRD ministry, the small touchscreen tablet “becomes” Aakash only after IIT Bombay teams prep it for the job. That may amount to pre-loading applications on to a blank slate, but bringing to students precisely what they may need is a value addition that can make Aakash 2 educationally relevant.
The features that make Aakash 2 unique
Proximity: The Proxy Multimedia Integration Tool for you (ProxyMITY) developed by IIT Bombay enables creation of interactive lessons by importing lecture video and presentation slides. Proximity brings personalised learning to students who can access quality lectures by reputable teachers. A searchabale database storage and retrieval system for students enables fast and even offline access to published lessons and lectures.
Blender Animation: An open source software for creating 3D animations, rendering, video editing etc. Developed at IIT Bombay; several educational animations have been ported on the tablet.
Scilab: The open-source equivalent of the commercial product Matlab, used extensively by scientists and engineers in statistical analysis, engineering design and control systems application, Scilab can be of great help to science and engineering students and will save the costs that would have been incurred in buying the rather expensive Matlab. IIT B’s Scilab port on Aakash allows users to write and execute their programmes directly on the tablet. This is the first Android tablet that has been able to port Scilab, says the Aakash 2 team.
Aakash Pustak: The e-book reader is in the process of uploading over 5,000 textbooks, with NCERT textbooks across classes constituting the bulk. Aakash Putsak is unicode, allowing books in regional languages too to be accessed.
GNU-Khata: A tool for those studying accounts, GNU-Khata can help create ledgers, balance sheets, account books and so on. While targeted at students, it can be of use also to small businessmen and retailers in rural India in streamlining their accounts.
Clicker: A student response system for classrooms, created again by IITB. Clicker enables teachers to get quick feedback from students on instant quizzes. A quiz question gets downloaded on a student’s Aakash tablet. At the end of the test time, all answers are automatically collected and get recorded in the back-end system. Clicker also enables the teacher to generate a progress report on the comprehension levels of each student based on his answers in a range of quizzes. Clicker comes to the aid of the shy student who may have a query for his teacher but will not say so publicly. The “raise hand” feature on Clicker allows a student to raise his hand virtually and post the query.
Spoken tutorials: Educational videos in over 18 Indian languages including Bodo, Khasi, Nepali. A low-bandwidth tool, this hosts tutorials on life skills too: from directions on how to book a rail ticket the IRCTC website or how to book an air ticket airline, to how to knot a tie.
Robot control: Educational robots designed at IITB are used to teach principles of embedded software, algorithms incorporating artificial intelligence and data collection from various sensors. An application developed on Aakash allows the tablet to control the movement of the robot and see the video stream from a mounted camera, sent to it using WiFi.
IIT Bombay describes Aakash as an access device in which a Linux environment has been developed atop an Android operating system. Tailored compilers for C, C++, Python and Scilab are ported so that users can write and run programmes on the tablet, emphasising its use as a full-fledged computer. Powered by a 1GHz processor and backed with a 512 MB RAM, Aakash 2 sports a 7" capacitive screen, a USB port and micro SD card slot and promises a battery life of 3 hours for normal operations.
Jharkhand has placed a request for 4.5 lakh devices, out of an overall estimated nationwide demand of nearly 5 million. While 10,000 tablets are with teachers across 260 locations in the country, the next lot will go to educational institutes that will issue the tablets to students much like library books. The HRD ministry plans to invite tenders for five million upgraded Aakash tablets next month.