AMD shows off PC designs from developing economies

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AMD shows off PC designs from developing economies

Latin America design contest zooms in on local demands.

In an effort to increase access to computers, AMD has unveiled designs for a pair of low-cost internet access systems designed by university students from South America. 

The two devices were created as part of the Connecting the World contest, in which students throughout Latin America were asked to design projects that would best provide and put to use internet access in local communities.

The 'Chairman's Award', selected by AMD chief executive Hector Ruiz, was awarded to Gota, a system designed by students in Chile that would allow local utility companies and co-ops to provide internet access to rural areas.

Gota would use the water providers that serve many of the region's rural populations as the backbone for providing internet connections in community centres and homes.

The 'Judge's Award', chosen by a panel, was given to E-Cipó, an internet access terminal that uses a regular television set as a display.

Although it has some similarities to Microsoft's MSN TV, the Brazilian designers intend E-Cipó to use a GPRS signal to connect to the internet and to transmit the screen images wirelessly to a television set on UHF frequencies.

The device is designed for isolated rural areas with little land-line infrastructure, particularly communities in the Amazon regions of South America.

Each of the awards carries a US$30,000 prize, US$10,000 of which goes to each team's university.

Other finalists in the contest included a hand-held device to provide tourists with local information, and a tablet-style PC for use on fishing boats.

Billy Edwards, chief innovation officer at AMD, told in an interview that the student entries raised problems and solutions that the company had never considered.

"It is answering issues of everything from fishing to finding your way around," said Edwards. "A variety of things are issues that we have not seen, and a lot of them are really a big deal."

The contest is part of AMD's 50 x 15 project, a campaign that aims to provide 50 per cent of the world's population with internet access by 2015. 

To achieve that level of accessibility, Edwards said that manufacturers will need to provide a variety of devices for accessing the internet.

He believes that the Gota and E-Cipó, along with other low cost access devices such as the OLPC project's 2B1 machines, signify a new era of computing devices designed to meet unique geographic, social and economic situations. 

"We have kind of been in the 'Ford Model-T' era where there was not a lot of diversity. I believe that in the next several years we are going to end up with a lot of diversity in computing devices," said Edwards.

"There are a lot of people saying that this industry is getting boring, but they are just not looking in the right places."
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