Advanced Television

Samara resurfaces with Worldspace satellites

June 2, 2014

Worldspace’s two tired and very aging satellites are again being used by founder, humanitarian and altogether good fellow Noah Samara. This time the genius, who according to the Wall Street cost investors a reported $2.5 billion in lost cash, is using the satellites for an India-based e-learning project.

Samara’s post-bankruptcy company Yazmi acquired the two satellites out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for about $5 million. At an e-Learning event in Kampala, Uganda, last week, Yamzi unveiled ‘Odyssey’, the “world’s first satellite-enabled tablet designed and developed for education” and using Yamzi’s two geostationary craft  “repurposed to offer an end-to-end learning infrastructure to serve remote or otherwise unreachable students”.

Yamzi, still based at Silver Spring, Maryland, says its Odysssey devices do not require Internet or broadband or even electricity because the receiver can be solar-powered, and uses the two old satellites as the data source.

“Unlike most other tablets in the market, the design of Odyssey was demand-driven and it is the world’s first and only satellite-enabled tablet designed and developed for education,” according to Srinivasan Rangarajan, Yamzi’s CTO (and a former India Space Research Organisation staffer.

The Odyssey tablet is said to be pre-loaded with approved curricular content and software tools for learning and teaching. “Traditional models of e-Learning content delivery rely on internet connectivity or cellular networks. Internet is not usually available in geographically remote or poorer regions while “cellular networks can be prohibitively expensive for the government or students’ families,” Rangarajan told The Indian Express web-site.  In contrast, he said, Yazmi’s system “has extensive geographical coverage”. Students can use their personal device for storing text books, notes taking and automatically updating course content.  “In the Yazmi system, governments provide the curriculum content, including live lectures, and the content originator can uplink to the satellite, while local teachers can control what gets into their students’ tablets,” Rangarajan said. “Students participate in live classrooms from the convenience of their homes and teachers can reduce the time spent in writing on the blackboard and increase classroom interaction,” he added.

Buyers of the Odyssey device (at $150 a unit) should be aware that both Worldspace satellites are well beyond their end-of-life. Afristar was launched in 1998, and AsiaStar in 2000. Both had a design life of 12 years.

Worldspace Inc, went from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to full Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June 2012. The would-be broadcaster cited debts of $2.1 billion and assets of $307 million.

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