XPRIZE’s five education software finalists help kids teach themselves

Swapna Krishna

Millions of children around the world don't have access to basic education, such as reading, writing and arithmetic skills, and the problem is only getting worse. XPRIZE is looking to do something about it. Today, the organization announced the five finalists for the Global Learning XPRIZE; each will receive a $1 million.

This particular challenge is designed around teaching basic learning to children around the world. The competition wanted easily scalable software solutions that would be relatively simple to implement. One hundred and ninety eight teams entered the Global Learning XPrize competition and 11 experts narrowed them down to the final teams.

The five teams are as follows. CCI, based in New York, is developing learning platforms and programs that operate sequentially. Bangalore's Chimple is focused on tablet-based learning, allowing kids to explore reading, writing and math through 60 games and 70 stories. Kitkit School, from Berkeley, is also developing a learning game that will adapt to a child's individual level, regardless of background.

Meanwhile, the UK/Malawi/Tanzania-based onebillion is focusing on a mix of content and monitoring, to allow directed learning based on what a child needs. Finally, RoboTutor, from Pittsburgh, is using research from Carnegie Mellon that includes machine learning and human-computer interaction to develop a product.

The next step for these five teams is to field test their solutions. Google has donated 8,000 Pixel C tablets to children in 150 villages in the Tanga region of Tanzania. They will field test each finalist's software over a period of 15 months. Whichever solution demonstrates the highest achievement after that time will be the winner, receiving a prize of $10 million. The resulting program's code and content will be open source and free to anyone to build on and modify.