LINKING CHILDREN

Priyanka Vyas

Child's play


Each child

in a group is able to use the computer by handing over a mouse to each of them, with all the mice linked to the same computer.

Different colour

cursors to make children identify the cursor linked to their own mouse.

New Delhi, Sept. 11

If you can't afford to buy more personal computers (PCs), just buy more mice. That's the idea behind the Bangalore-based Microsoft Research Labs' new experiment in schools in rural Karnataka.

Under the project, the company is trying to ensure that each child in a group is able to use the computer by handing over a mouse to each of them, with all the mice linked to the same computer. This connects a group of children to a single computer with each mouse having a corresponding cursor on the screen. To avoid any confusion, Microsoft has designed different colours of cursors so as to make it easy for the children to identify the cursor linked to their own mouse. The company aptly calls the initiative the `Multimouse' project.

Multimouse initiative

So, how does the computer operate when a group of children are clicking on multiple mice at the same time? Well, Microsoft has designed a special software for educational purpose that will serve in such a single computer-multi-mice environment.

For example, computer games in this software are in question-answer formats and the child who clicks the answer the fastest wins. Games could be in the form of multiple-choice questions for enhancing the vocabulary or a word and picture matching exercise.

"With just the price of those mice (a couple of hundred rupees each), the value of the PC is now multiplied for educational scenarios," Mr Kentaro Toyama, Assistant Managing Director, Microsoft Research Labs, told

Business Line

.

Rural areas

The preliminary tests conducted by Microsoft around a few schools in Bangalore reveal that it can not only make the child learn instantly, but also create an environment of competition and teamwork.

He explained, "We realised that schools in rural areas never have enoughPCs. This resulted in one computer being crowded by a lot of kids, leading to disengagement among those who did not have a mouse to control the computer. So we decided to provide multiple mice to connect five-six children with a single computer. Without adding any kind of financial burden to the schools, it would engage more children at the same time."

Program expansion

On whether the multimouse concept can be used for standard programmes such as Microsoft Word or Tally, Mr Toyama said, "Not immediately as the software needs to be modified to take advantage of the Multimouse paradigm."

However, he added that the company would not rule out this possibility completely.

"We are beginning explorations in this direction. Multiple keyboards are also likely to be necessary," he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 12, 2006)
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