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These gadgets used by UNICEF and other nonprofits are changing the lives of kids and adults in underprivileged communities
In Syrian refugee camps, UNICEF is using a Pi4L all-in-one computer with a 9-inch screen to teach displaced children how to read, write, calculate, game and even program. The Pi4L is basically an oversize 9-inch tablet in a thick photo frame with a Raspberry Pi board tacked on the back, but the sloppy build doesn't affect its utility. The Linux PC -- which costs less than US$100 to make -- has also been used in information kiosks and in Lebanon refugee camps, where kids get a break from their tough lives by playing games or polishing language skills. It has been invaluable to UNICEF as an educational and information resource.
Knowledge is power: A triangle-shaped Talking Book e-book narrator is serving as a learning tool for 500,000 underprivileged children and adults worldwide. The toy-like device is being used to educate and entertain kids, and to deliver farming and health instructions to adults. Users can also record audio. Buttons on a front panel let users play, pause or navigate between e-books. The battery-powered device can be held in one hand and an internal SD card can hold hundreds of hours of audio. Content can be customized to meet age, language and learning needs.
UNICEF officials gave visitors an interactive tour of refugee camps through a Samsung Gear VR headset. The tour showed what kids were learning in schools, and how people conducted daily life in camps. A headset isn't cheap, but it is an important information dissemination tool for the U.N. agency. The headset is also too expensive to deploy in the field, but it is inspiring UNICEF to develop low-cost and rugged wearables that could be used to improve health and literacy.
Some tables were littered with gadgets used by UNICEF and other non-profits on the field. A startup called SimPrint showed a mobile fingerprint reader, which links up to a mobile device for cloud-based authentication of individuals. In a crisis, this technology ensures everybody gets their fair share of food and supplies, and that health workers can identify unconscious patients in disaster areas. The fingerprint reader was made on a low-cost development board and was powered by a battery pack.
Another interesting contraption on display was a box with a USB port that could link health instruments to mobile devices to easily grab and record measurements.