Start-ups set to tap into tablet potential

An iPad-based educational tool for autistic children could prompt start-ups to tap into the tablet market in a similar vein an expert says, particularly as parents become increasingly time-poor.


Foad Fadaghi, research director of technology market analyst firm Telsyte, says it makes sense for children to use tablets for educational purposes.


“What we’ve seen in the past few years is the arrival of netbooks and netbook computers. It’s evolutional to move to tablet computers as they are lower cost devices,” Fadaghi says.


“Increasingly we’re seeing the availability of educational apps. A lot of children get used to tablets in the home environment as a child-minding device – playing games etcetera – and it’s a natural evolution to get them into learning.”


Fadaghi’s comments come on the back of a report by The Australian which showcases a computer-based interactive tool for parents and therapists of autistic children.


The Topy Playpad software, developed by a team at Curtin University of Technology in WA, could also be used as an early stage learning tool for children under the age of 10.


The software, which runs on an iPad, essentially allows a parent to do early intervention learning with their child at home.


The tool is unique in its performance-based tracking and reporting functions, which save parents valuable time that they would otherwise spend manually recording a child’s progress.


Svetha Venkatesh, director of the university’s Institute for Multi-Sensor Processing and Content Analysis, believes the technology will revolutionise both the tablet market and the way in which children learn.


“Your child is diagnosed (with autism)at two, you have got until four to fix this and you can’t see a therapist until three, so there is this gaping hole,” Professor Venkatesh says.


“This will have a profound impact on the lives of families.”


The institute has partnered with Autism West to produce the tool, which will be released in WA in February next year and in the Australian App Store by April, followed by the US and Britain in October.


The software’s other features include a multi-touch interactive platform that allows simultaneous interaction between child and therapist as well as a reward-based learning platform tailored to the learning styles of autistic children.


“The potential for this is far beyond autism,” Venkatesh says.


“Early learning itself is early literacy and numeracy, and that is kind of the most exciting part because the framework is for any learning paradigm.”


Fadaghi says while the outlook for educational technology looks promising it’s still early days for the tablet market.


“You have to be thinking about where the adoption is going to be in a few years’ time … it’s all about timing,” he says.


“While it’s good to be early, the adoption rate (for tablets) is still not as high as other competing devices.”


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