Makers: Talking Book

BatteriesThe Maker Faire Africa isn’t just about guys tossing up a windmill that ends up taking the world by storm. There are a number of people working to create new products for general African consumers as well.
One such product is the “Talking Book”. Created by a Ghanaian fellow named Andy and an American named Cliff, they met in an internet cafe one day and discovered mutual interests. This led to eventually developing the “Talking Book”.
What this is, is a device created for the fact that is often a good deal of illiteracy in Ghana and that the oral transfer of knowledge is one of the easiest, although it also has applications for students listening to it when they miss class or a number of other things. The device (pictured below) was designed, developed, and programmed in Ghana. The manufacturing for these initial devices has been in China as there is no circuit fabrication plants in Ghana and they have been developing it over the last three years. It records up to 40 hours of audio, runs on very common D Cell batteries. The controls are quite simple with basic symbols to navigate the device. From looking at it, I would say that there is a bit of a learning curve, but it seems like it would be rather fast to pick up even still.
The big thing that I absolutely love about the device is that it is multilingual. A user can switch from something like English to Twi to Ga and back. It’s a bit hard to imagine this as there is no screen, but you can indeed tab through various language options if they are available.
Oh yeah, they didn’t bother with trying to make some kind of wireless sharing system for the device. That would be costly, complicated, use too much power, and just an overall waste. Instead, they’ve included a USB cable on each device that you can pull out and share any audio story on the device with another one.
The current price of the prototype is $37 USD. Obviously too expensive for any low income family in Ghana, but if they manage to get production up to 10,000 units, it drops to $7 USD, which brings it much more in the range of affordability. Also, down the road they are looking in to the feasibility of adding solar panels to it in order to replace the batteries altogether.
I like this device for a number of reasons, but most importantly due to the fact it was something born out of Ghana based upon a need that people saw here, as opposed to some outside group deciding that they knew what was needed and trying to force it upon people.
Makers: Talking Book