New foundation focused on taking the Sugar user interface to the next level of usability and utility

May 15 2008

Cambridge, Mass., May 15, 2008. Sugar Labs Foundation is being established to further extend Sugar, the highly acclaimed open source “learn learning” software platform that was originally developed for the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) XO laptop. Sugar is the core of the XO laptop’s human-computer interface; it provides a fun, easy-to-use, social experience that promotes sharing and learning. Sugar Labs will focus on providing a software ecosystem that enhances learning on the XO laptop as well as other laptops distributed by other companies, such as the ASUS Eee PC. Consistent with the OLPC mission to provide opportunities for learning, an independent Sugar Labs Foundation can deliver learning software to other hardware vendors and, consequently, reach more children.

Sugar Labs will take a proven learning concept to the next level of refinement, stability, and cohesiveness, and will be a unifying catalyst for free and open-source learning systems across multiple distribution and hardware platforms. The Labs will provide support to a community of developers focused on learning as well as support for the learners. The Sugar platform has already been bundled with the most recent release of the Ubuntu and Fedora GNU/Linux distributions.

Walter Bender, former president of software and content at OLPC, is helping to launch Sugar Labs, working closely with the developers and community members from around the world who have played the lead roles in the development of the Sugar user interface (UI). Prior to OLPC, Bender was executive director and a founding member of the Media Lab at MIT. He has participated in much of the pioneering research in the field of electronic publishing and personalized, interactive multimedia.

In order to provide a rich learning experience to as many of the world’s children as possible, it is critical to not just provide computers to children, but to ensure that the software that runs on the computers maximizes the potential for engaging in activities that promote learning: exploration, expression, and collaboration. By being independent of any specific hardware platform and by remaining dedicated to the principles of free and open-source software, Sugar Labs ensures that others can develop diverse interfaces and applications from which governments and schools can choose. An independent Sugar Labs ensures that the community can continue the development of a highly innovative interface that is already engaging children in learning in more than two-dozen countries worldwide.

“This is a very exciting time in the development of software for children’s education,” said Walter Bender. “In the first generation of the Sugar UI, the free and open-source community has demonstrated an exceptional ability to create a platform that enables children to explore the world, share their discoveries and express themselves. As a separate foundation, we will be able to advance Sugar’s development even further and make it available on multiple distributions and hardware platforms.”

Many of the core Sugar developers are participating in the launch, including Marco Pesenti Gritti, Bert Freudenberg, Simon Schampijer, Bernardo Innocenti, Aaron Kaplan, Christoph Derndorfer, and Tomeu Vizoso.

Bert Freudenberg, one of the developers of the Etoys activity, commented, “Expanding Sugar to more hardware platforms gives a great boost to all developers of educational software. Sugar is the first system specifically aimed at helping children to learn while supporting a rich variety of contributed applications. As third-party developers, my colleagues at Viewpoints Research Institute look forward to a great relationship with Sugar Labs.”

“Sugar has been brought to maturity by OLPC and a relatively small team of community supporters,” said Tomeu Vizoso. “The time has come to unlock Sugar’s potential as a global education project; the creation of the Sugar Labs is the next step expanding upon a project where people from all around the world can contribute to improving education, with the assurance that their efforts will be of benefit to everyone.”

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