The windows on the fifth floor of the building on Michigan Avenue used to look out on the parking lot of Sheehan Hospital. Now, the windows are in a clean room of a tablet PC manufacturing firm, perhaps the only one in the U.S.
The tablets are larger than many, although they have the look of typical hand-held units and operate on Android software. What's different is on the back where Bak USA's tablets proclaim "Assembled in Buffalo, NY."
Workers from 13 different countries are building the units, which will eventually be put into use in the Third World priced as cheaply as possible. Two Danish lawyers brought the firm here with incentives from Albany through the START-UP NY program.
The firm has 20 employees now and hopes for 100 by the end of the year. Workers can build and test three to four of the tablets an hour. Co-founder J.P. Bak says the units have WiFi and high tech phone connections. Bak says a new plan makes them useable anywhere.
"They call it the mist, which means total coverage of Africa with WiFi, which means you can be in the most rural area, push a button and you can enter the University at Buffalo," said Bak.
UB President Satish Tripathi is from a village in rural India where his father was a teacher.
"When I went into computer science, I had to tell him what a computer really was," said tripathi. "He would have loved to have the access to libraries, not just for learning in terms of language and so on, but just access to materials. It would have been fantastic."
Bak says the first units are to go to school kids in Kenya, as Africa develops a WiFi system serving the entire continent. That would allow students in the most rural part of any country to use the tablets to access the knowledge of the world while sitting under a tree. He says those same units might solve computer access problems right here.