Technology Showcase: Interactive Whiteboards

New whiteboard technologies allow presenters to take charge of the information flow.
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Technology Showcase: Interactive Whiteboards

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New whiteboard technologies allow presenters to take charge of the information flow.

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3M Digital Board

The great irony of an interactive-whiteboard presentation is that despite the growing battery of digital equipment available to the person standing in front of the audience, the most important aspect is purely analog. Or — better said — purely human. It is the gestural expressiveness of a hand drawing on a board through which the information is conveyed that cannot be duplicated with all the bits and bytes in the world. Instead of the static dryness of text documents, spreadsheets, or the now legendary “death by PowerPoint,” the intuitive humanity of being able to circle, notate, check off, or simply scribble on a board in front of an audience adds an emotional dimension to the message being presented.

The art of a whiteboard presentation has advanced light-years forward from chalk on a blackboard. Not long ago, the ability to scan the writing on a surface brought the evolution of copyboards. Then in the early 1990s, various sensing technologies enabled computers to record what was being put on the board even as the writing was still going on, and capture boards were created. But today, with digital projectors adding an almost unlimited array of images and interactive computers that run dedicated software, it turns presentations into files that can be easily distributed. Illustrating a speech with an interactive whiteboard can be one of the most effective methods of giving meaning to your media.

It's a rapidly growing business, impelled largely by rising expenditures for education. The technology-tracking firm Futuresource, formerly known as Decision Tree Consulting, predicted in its April Report on Interactive Products that interactive whiteboard worldwide sales kicked off 2008 in a strong first quarter with sales up 12 percent over the previous year. The main success was in the United States, which was 30 percent above forecast.

But although statistics for the use of interactive whiteboards specifically in the corporate realm are not available, most of the manufacturers' representatives contacted for this article said the business world was a burgeoning part of their companies' sales — thanks, in large part, to a convergence of technologies meeting an increasing need. The sensors used to record what is written on the boards have become so sophisticated that they can produce images as colorful as dry-erase markers often while using just an unadorned finger, again proving the advantage of a human touch. Images put on the whiteboards either from a projector connected to a computer or document camera (see our Technology Showcase on document cameras on p. 58) are in such high resolution that anyone in the audience can see them. And because the interactivity of the experience can be fairly easily networked, the presentation can be shared with audiences anywhere in the world as part of a teleconferencing system.

But perhaps the most appealing aspect of using a modern interactive whiteboard system is its ease of use. In corporate boardrooms, training centers, or meeting halls, a permanently installed interactive whiteboard system can actually be simpler to master than a PowerPoint lecture driven by a laptop. Or if more scheduling flexibility is a prime concern, many systems are so small they are easily portable. Strictly speaking, you don't always even need the whiteboard itself because many of the infrared/ultrasonic sensing systems that record what is being written can be affixed to any surface that is convenient. For that matter, the whiteboard can often provide double value as a plain writing surface (without any computer or projector involved) just by using dry-erase markers.

But why not just duplicate the experience with a networked gaggle of laptops? That points out the most appealing advantage of a whiteboard-style presentation. Instead of audience members huddled over their own little laptop screens, with a whiteboard presentation, the audience's attention is directed toward the front of the room — where one or more people are conducting the information flow. As a result, like the importance of the human gesture when marking on the board, the whole experience becomes much more personal. There are even several approaches to providing immediate audience feedback with handheld response systems — which, although beyond the scope of this article, can let the presenter instantly evaluate how well the message is coming across. For ease of use, many interactive whiteboards come with simplified calibration procedures to integrate images contributed by a projector into the presentation.

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Technology Showcase: Interactive Whiteboards

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New whiteboard technologies allow presenters to take charge of the information flow.

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Egan Visual TeamBoard IR

So here is a look at some of the most interesting interactive whiteboards that are starting to grace the halls of corporate America.

When combined with a projection system and a computer, the new 3M Digital Board provides a highly durable porcelain-enamel-over-steel writing surface (the DB565 is 65in. diagonal and the DB578 is 78in. diagonal) from which the content can be printed, emailed, edited, and saved in a variety of well-known formats — including WBD, PDF, BMP, JPG, TIF, PPT, EMF, and PPS. You can even annotate over projected applications. Although dry-erase markers can be used, the 3M Digital Board's multifunction ergonomic digital-presentation pen lets you choose from customizable tool palettes, and it is compatible with handwriting recognition. With each Digital Board, 3M gives you access to an image gallery loaded with more than 2,700 images to use as visual study aids to enhance learning. The 3M Digital Board can be connected to a PC via a USB cable, and it is both Windows and Mac compatible.

ACCO Brands is the leading manufacturer of dry-erase boards in the world. But stepping into 21st-century technology, the Quartet IdeaShare Board from ACCO is a premium porcelain interactive whiteboard that is fully integrated with eBeam electronic imaging technology licensed from Luidia. Notes and images from the Quartet IdeaShare Board can be saved to a PC or Mac, beamed to any PDA handheld device with Palm OS, directly printed with the touch of a button, or shared live over the Internet or corporate intranet. The Quartet IdeaShare Board features a graphite frame with accessory tray, electronic pens, dry-erase markers, electronic and standard erasers, stylus (for wireless mouse use), software, batteries, power supply, and USB cable. Free webconferencing is enabled by ACCO Brands with included software for seamless network sharing from the Quartet IdeaShare Board.

Fifteen permanent keys in the action bar on the Dukane 77S LeaderBoard give presenters quick access to files, annotations, and presentation tools just by touching the board with their finger. Even mouse control is accomplished by a simple touch, letting the presenter stay in front of the board during the whole lecture without having to wrestle with a laptop. The 77S LeaderBoard can also use dry-erase markers on its pressure-sensitive matte-finish surface, with their color being chosen by selecting one of the dedicated soft keys at the bottom of the board. This 57.5"×44.5" interactive whiteboard from Dukane comes with RS-232 and USB connectors for easy setup.

Combining state-of-the-art infrared sensing technology with an EVS dry-erase presentation surface, the 110in. TeamBoard IR from Egan Visual is called the world's largest touchscreen. With its low-glare EVS surface, even permanent marker is easy to erase if used by mistake. Unlike most other sensor technologies, Egan's infrared-based design does not use triangulation to track movement. Instead, thousands of LED lights housed in the frame of the board create a grid that more accurately responds to the touch of the presenter's finger. And to get away from a proprietary toolbar, TeamBoard's action bar allows the user to control all software features with the touch of a finger. TeamBoard IR is set up to display a 16:9 presentation without cropping, and the TeamBoard's unique controller was designed to upgrade easily in the field with the TeamBoard still hanging on the wall.

The Interwrite Board from einstruction uses patented electromagnetic digitizing technology that delivers high-resolution sensing (1000 lines per inch), providing superior performance for fine annotations and handwriting recognition. Coming this December, einstruction will give its boards the ability to take input from multiple participants using Interwrite Pad presentation tools. To eliminate wired connectivity, Bluetooth technology is available as either a PCMCIA card or a USB dongle. Programmable softkeys simplify usage of the Interwrite Board by providing instant access in launching a favorite application, Internet site, or file. Rechargeable interactive pens provide full mouse capability (left- and right-click, drag-and-drop, etc.) when using the Interwrite Board. Einstruction's easy-to-use Interwrite Workspace software is included for free, giving you access to an extensive digital library of images, simulations, and lessons — along with more than 50 annotation tools.

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Technology Showcase: Interactive Whiteboards

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New whiteboard technologies allow presenters to take charge of the information flow.

From Hitachi, the StarBoard FX Duo 77 interactive whiteboard allows up to two points of contact and multi-touch gestures so multiple participants can write on the board at the same time or presenters can explore a map by zooming into specific areas by simply spreading their two fingers apart. All electronics on Hitachi's FX Duo 77 are contained in a replaceable component covered under a five-year warranty. This provides an electronics-free surface for more durable use because the board remains fully operational even with minor scratches or dents. The complete interactive StarBoard software, now in version 8.0, is included with every FX Series whiteboard. It includes more than 5,000 learning objects to spice up a presentation. This Hitachi whiteboard can import documents by printing from any application by selecting “StarBoard Document Capture” as a printer.

The eBeam sensor/receiver from Luidia, which is just 6in. across and weighs 4.5oz., fits seamlessly into the corner of any existing whiteboard and can activate up to 8ft. of board space. In fact, it can turn any surface into an interactive writing screen using dry-erase markers by tracking their notations with infrared and ultrasonic sensors. The eBeam Interact Software provides an array of tools based on the most popular and familiar software packages, and Luidia's eBeam live content-sharing Scrapbook software allows whiteboard sessions to be distributed to participants on either Mac or Windows systems anywhere with an Internet connection. Luidia also offers an optional Bluetooth connection feature that eliminates the cord between the computer and the whiteboard surface.

The mimio Interactive device is a portable and low-cost unit that attaches to any whiteboard (up to 4'×8' in size); connects to your PC; and, when used with a projector, allows you to control your desktop applications and documents directly from the board. It can be used with any of the four new models of mimio whiteboards, ranging from 78in. to 111in. The interactive technology is built into the mimio Board frame, housed in a heavy-duty, anodized aluminum housing, making the board less susceptible to impact or abrasion. Each mimio Board ships as a complete system ready for use with a data projector, providing a touch-responsive interactive display and giving users full control of all computer functions, applications, online resources, and documents by using the mimio Mouse interactive stylus. The company also offers the new mimio Pad that allows presenters to control interactive whiteboard content from anywhere in a boardroom or training center using the mimio system.

The WTIW77 interactive whiteboard from NEC uses an interactive touch pen as part of the company's ImagineX series that often comes bundled with its WT610E DLP projector and either Windows or Mac software. Its annotation tools include pen, shapes, highlighter, eraser, redo/undo, and save buttons — allowing users of the WTIW77 interactive whiteboard to create unlimited instructional images on the screen. Its surface is made from a special porcelain-enamel skin developed by Alfher Porcewol to withstand almost any common-usage damage to the surface. Its scrapbook application turns the image on the whiteboard surface into a digital workspace. Multiple tools within the application allow the user to record notes digitally, import screenshots and other files as background images, save scrapbook files, and use layers to hide and show elements of a page. In addition, the NEC WTIW77 PowerPoint palette allows efficient annotation and navigation from slide presentations.

Numonics was the first to introduce a pen-based interactive whiteboard back in 1994. The Numonics Intelliboard (referred to as I-Board), introduced in 2006, uses Numonics' patented electromagnetic technology and features an electronic multimedia pen that generates both left and right mouse functions. As the user writes on the board, the pen sends a signal to a wire grid behind the writing surface of the interactive board, and the resulting digital X and Y coordinates are transmitted to the computer through a serial RS-232 serial cable to the communications port or via a USB adapter to the USB port. Numonics also offers the Digital Presentation Appliance II and the PI-1500, a 15in. LCD tablet monitor that also uses electromagnetic technology. With every I-Board, Numonics includes the Encyclopedia Britannica DVD Suite free, along with online, web-based training and the industry's only limited lifetime warranty.

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Technology Showcase: Interactive Whiteboards

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New whiteboard technologies allow presenters to take charge of the information flow.

The Panasonic UB-8325 Interactive Panaboard comes with two non-glare panels, each of them capable of being scanned or printed independently when used in Whiteboard mode. With infrared and ultrasonic sensors, the UB-8325 can also be used in Panaboard mode to record anything written on the board into a computer. This mode also captures images put on the board by a digital projector into the presenter's computer file. Finally, the Panaboard's intriguing Movie mode captures the marks put on the board as they are being made and plays them back in subsequent meetings as a moving-video file. Panasonic Panaboard software even has handwriting-recognition capability, able to interpret either block or cursive letters into computer-stored digital fonts. Panasonic's latest whiteboard offering, the UB-T780, just released last May, provides a single widescreen 77in. writing surface that comes without an onboard printer and is designed specifically for presentations using either a Windows or Macintosh software driver.

The M-115 is the latest addition to the Plus Vision copyboard line. It features four writing screens, a built-in projection screen, and an optional onboard printer with color-printing capabilities. Plus Vision's M-Series electronic copyboards provide users the choice of printing out notes written on the copyboard, saving a digital copy to portable flash memory, or transferring files directly to their computers via USB. The functions of the M-115 can be controlled and customized though a direct PC connection by using the bundled software and the presenter can print the contents of the board in color or black and white using standard (compatible) inkjet or laser printers.

The M-115 uses a new LED light system for low power consumption. Plus Vision also offers a unique CaptureBoard with a writeable matte-screen surface. All of the presenters' notes and comments, along with the original projected image, can be saved to their computer by simply scanning it. This gives the Plus CaptureBoard an almost-zero learning curve. Simply write, scan, and save. The Plus CaptureBoard can easily be transported from room to room thanks to its ease of onscreen calibration.

The PolyVision Walk-and-Talk Lightning Interactive Whiteboard boasts PolyVision's P3 ceramicsteel surface and the company claims that these are the only calibration-free interactive whiteboards in the industry. Just add a projector to get access to an interactive touch-sensitive surface that can open webpages, highlight documents, and interact with graphics software simply by using your finger or a stylus. There is no whiteboard-specific application or notebook software to learn, and capturing notes or drawings on the interactive whiteboard is as easy as using a digital camera because you simply press the save button on the remote control and a capture is created on your computer. Thanks to PolyKey technology, the Walk-and-Talk driver is always available at the whiteboard — enabling any user to walk up and use the board. Its durable heavy-gauge, powder-coated aluminum frame combines elegant aesthetics with durability.

Although the company's interactive whiteboards are geared primarily toward the education market, Promethean is finding them being increasingly used in corporate training centers. Just last June, a permanently mounted, fixed version of the Promethean Activboard+2 was added to a mobile version that allows for height adjustment of the screen. Its super-short-throw projector mounted directly on the board minimizes shadowing, and the sound system will keep everyone from the front to the back of the audience tuned in. All Activboard+2 fixed components are provided and serviced by Promethean, ensuring trustworthy service and extended operational use.

The QWB series of interactive whiteboards from Qomo HiteVision uses advanced IR technology to accurately track either a pen or finger on the screen. The company's QWB100WS — a 105in., 16:9 whiteboard — is designed to let you annotate over any application and save your work to storage. The QWB100WS integrates seamlessly with Qomo desktop and portable document cameras, writing tablets, and QClick audience-response system, and it lets the presenter select among three different pens with unlimited color choices. Qomo HiteVision's whiteboards can be efficiently included into a complete conference network.

Representing 56.8 percent of the worldwide whiteboard market as of Q1 2008, Smart Technologies Smart Board interactive whiteboards use both touch-sensitive and camera-based sensing technologies. The Smart Board 600i interactive whiteboard with integrated projector lets you write with digital ink on a touch-sensitive surface. In addition, the Smart Board interactive display frame attaches easily to most commercial plasma displays to make them interactive by combining the high-resolution image quality of a plasma display, the precision of camera-based touch technology, and the simplicity of a pencil tool. It benefits from Magic Pen technology — a three-in-one tool that can be used to spotlight, magnify, or zoom in on an image or write notes that will disappear in 10 seconds. The Smart Recorder can record events on the screen with optional sound and create a video file in AVI or WMV format. For protection, you can even add a watermark to the recording with the timestamp information, date, and logo. As one of the company's most recent developments, the Smart Hub PEbrings together multiple Smart Board interactive displays to create, share, and distribute digital notes without the need for a computer.



ACCO Brands


Egan Visual








Plus Vision



Qomo HiteVision

Smart Technologies

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