One Mouse Per Child (even better than one virtual desktop)

Vinay just blogged about Jooce, a start-up in France that was featured in Businessweek recently. The idea behind the start-up is that, in providing access to PCs to adults and children in the developing world – its not about making more PC available but to maximize the number of people who can use a give piece of hardware. So, Jooce creates a customized environment for each person, in some sense ‘making it their own PC’.

I dont really see how this is different from creating different users in Windows. Even if I’m missing something there, the article portrays ‘Jooce’ as an alternative to the 100$ Laptop and Intel’s Classmate PC. However, close observation of PC usage within schools in the developing world has shown that children only get a specific time during the week to use computers and more often than not, many of them are huddled together in front of the same PC (and one dominant kid taking control of the input devices).

After closely observing this phenomenon, researchers at Microsoft’s Research Lab in India came up with a innovative solution call ‘MultiMouse’.  Here is a brief about the technology from the Microsoft Research website:

Pawar, an assistant researcher for Microsoft Research’s India lab, located in Bangalore, had taken note of a challenge endemic to schools in his part of the world: not enough computers to go around. In such a scenario, what typically happens is that one child sits in front of a PC, hand on mouse, while others gather round. The result is no surprise: The mouse-manipulating student learns computer skills and masters the subject at hand, and the others grow bored and disengaged.

To help share the learning among a larger pool of students, Pawar developed a solution called Multimouse, with which as many as 10 students at once can use, and therefore learn from, a PC.

In a paper entitled Multiple Mice for Computers in Education in Developing Countries—to be presented during ICTD 2006, the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, co-sponsored by Microsoft Research India and to be held at the University of California Berkeley on May 25-26—co-authors Pawar, University of California Berkeley Ph.D. student Joyojeet Pal, and Kentaro Toyama, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India, state, “The obvious technical solution is to provide each child with a mouse and cursor on screen, thus effectively multiplying the amount of interaction per student per PC for the cost of a few extra mice.”

Simple, isnt? The solution really understands the needs of its users and is cheap to roll out. Based on your experience, what do you think works better Jooce or Multimouse – share your thoughts in the comments.

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2 Responses

  1. Brilliant! That is an incredible idea.

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