New Presentation Tools Improve Instruction & Collaboration Options

Many educators, perhaps inspired by the way theInternet and network technology is affecting their lives, arebeginning to see new possibilities with A/V and presentationtechnology. Yes, an LCD projector is still just that, butpresentation tools that may look like the "same old thing" are beinginfused with technology that runs the gamut from Internet linkage todocument sharing.

For example, when the University of San Diegohosted the final 1996 Presidential Debate, they utilized six ofDukane's new ImagePro 7010 LCD projectors topresent a live C-SPAN telecast of the debate to faculty, students andguests. While most LCD projectors are used with smaller groups, theseunits were used at sites with 300 or more people, giving each a live,"theater-like" presentation of the debate.

In New Hope, Pa., the New Hope-Solebury SchoolDistrict uses Canon's VIZCAM 1000 camera withWhite Pine's CU-SeeMe software forvideoconferencing over a LAN and the Internet. Multimedia learning,macro imaging in science classrooms and creating visuals forpresentations are all common uses for this potent combination. Andthe Global Schoolhouse uses VIZCAM for Internet-based collaboration,letting students present maps, illustrations or documents to globalcolleagues.

Others are taking entirely new approaches. Insteadof appropriating $5,000 for a projector, desktop computer and relatedinstructional tools, Yonkers School District, N.Y., purchased sixGateway Destination PCs to serve as classroominstruction centerpieces. With a 31-inch screen, and compatible withVCRs and stereo equipment, Destination systems serve quite nicely aspresentation units. The units, from Gateway 2000, can also bemoved around to different classrooms, taking Internet training out ofthe computer lab and onto the big screen.

It took a while, but now that presentations andmeetings are getting truly interactive, schools have a plethora ofoptions to explore. Whichever method of presentation is chosen, oneno longer has an excuse to use old, stale technology. This articleshows that even "stable" technologies like monitors are goingstate-of-the-art.

Even More New Projectors

In a move that will surely delight medical,science and industrial-design educators worldwide, Sharp has debuteda single-lens LCD projector capable of projecting stereoscopic 3Dimages. The XV-3D incorporates Sharp's six panelLCD technology and two high-brightness optical engines to deliverstereoscopic 3D images at 1000 lumens. This should greatly increasestudents' understanding of intricate 3D models such as DNA strands,molecular structures, etc.

Another new offering is Pioneer'sRVD-XG1, a portable LCD projector that providesexcellent XGA resolution using their proprietary digital reflectiveimaging technology (DRI). DRI works to eliminate the so-called"pixelization effect" via uniform dispersion of colors. A resolutionof up to 1024 x 768 with 16.7 million colors enables presenters toproject even the most detailed images.

On a different front, Polycom'sShowStation is a "document conferencing"projector that links distant meeting rooms or desktop PCs viaordinary phone lines, with the capability for real-time review andrevision of documents. The unit lets participants annotate and printdocuments or data files. Computer-based presentations can also beshared by connecting a PC to one of ShowStation's auxiliaryports.

As with all technology, projectors get smaller,more powerful and cheaper. Epson's ultra-lightELP-3500 is one of the smallest, most powerfulVGA-compatible LCD projectors around. With 650 ANSI lumens, itsoutput is brighter than many full-sized projectors. Weighing under 15pounds and sized like a large dictionary, the ELP-3500 offersportability to go along with its power.

And, Lightware has a projector that weighsan amazing 9.4-pounds. Its VP 100 is nearly half theweight of most portable projectors, with a pop-up lens that foldsinto the case for protection in transit. Lightware also manages topack a three-watt per channel stereo amplifier and speakers into theunit! For lecturers on the go, tired of lugging around 20 pounds ofprojector, a VP 100 may be just the thing.

Another unit designed specifically for educatorson the go, the Proxima Lightbook combines a compact,rugged design with an 11-pound package. The Lightbook LCD projectorhas plug-and- play SVGA image support and handles any video input. Itcomes with Proxima's Cyclops remote control long-reach wand, whichlets presenters open files, click on buttons and perform mouseactions from anywhere in the room.

Telex' Firefly P200 is alsotravel-ready, boasting a new folding mechanism that collapses theprojector to less than three inches high.

Carving a neat niche out in the education market,Chisholm pioneered annotation capability. Now their uniqueDataBook LCD panels feature the firm's optionalWriting Pad or PenPal digitizer.The Writing Pad, or smaller PenPal, are remote annotation tabletsthat let presenters draw on, write over and annotate projections.This basically emulates whiteboard functions, yet still gives thepresenter full control over the projector and videosource.

Projecting "Realism"

Many educators have now discovered a previouslyobscure, yet extremely useful, presentation tool -- known as a "videopresenter," "visualizer" or the more generic "document camera." Theseunits, when hooked up to a projector, computer or TV, can display 3Dobjects as well as flat objects, slides, negative or positive film,transparencies, and just about anything you can place on its "stage"or focus its camera on.

Sony's VID-P100, previouslyfeatured in T.H.E. (May 96, p.68), has garnered quite afollowing due to its ease of use, high-quality output and ability tobe controlled by a PC. The VID-P100 incorporates a backlight todisplay transparencies, slides or negative film with uniformresults.

Elmo's DT-50 is one of thefirst video presenters with a detachable camera head, which expandsits usefulness, especially in videoconferencing applications. Y/C andcomposite video output, backlight compensation, a built-in microphoneand more are featured.

Superscope's VPS200 videopresenter offers light weight (2 lb.), portability and a strong setof features -- at a nice price. The unit's CCD camera provides over400 horizontal TV lines of resolution, and there are controls forhue, shutter speed, brightness and more. The VPS200, complete withlighted stage, comes with everything needed for setup and retails foraround $800.

For presenters who require very high-resolution,Wolfvision's VZ-35 Visualizer features a unique,patented light system: a light field the size of the built-incamera's pick-up area. When the camera zooms in, the light fieldsizes accordingly, letting one position objects without looking at amonitor. No light adjustments are necessary, and even hollow objectsare completely illuminated. The VZ-35 offers an astounding 720horizontal TV lines of resolution. Video Flex, byKen-a-Vision, is another high-resolution imaging unit. Itscamera is on a 25" flexible arm and takes other "C"-mount lenses foradded versatility.

For educators who present on the road or inunusual settings, Eiki's V-4100 is housed in areinforced steel body, adding great durability. It features abuilt-in light table, numerous connection options and over 450horizontal TV lines.


Need Both? No Problem!

What happens if you want to project bothmultimedia, such as PC-based images, and overheads, slides or realobjects -- at the same time? Must one buy a projector and a documentcamera? Until recently the answer was yes. But now, firms areintroducing products that team up a multimedia projector with adocument camera.

For example, Toshiba's MediaStar311 is a full-featured LCD projector that offers four inputchannels, a TFT LCD that generates 16.7 million colors at 640 x 480,an infrared remote and a high-resolution document camera, which flipsup and stores out of the way. The Apollo Synergyjoins a high-performance CCD camera and sequential color encoderwith Epson TFT active-matrix LCD panels. It projects anything fromVGA or Mac input to printed material or solid objects. Its digitalcamera is supported by dual fluorescent lamps and boasts a powerzoom.

Electronic Whiteboards

Another tool rapidly gaining acceptance ineducation is the electronic whiteboard. Using these 90's versions ofthe tried-and-true board-on-easel, educators can electronically writeover computer images projected onto the whiteboard by a projector,control computer applications by simply touching the board, save andprint whiteboard notes and more.

Smart Technologies' popular SMARTBoard, recently discounted $500 for educators, includeseverything needed to deliver true multimedia lectures. With the unit,educators get software drivers for PCs and Macs, markers, an eraser,mounting kit, cables and more. Plus, optional SMART 2000Conferencing software lets teachers and students in up to 64different locations share and annotate images and Windowsapplications in real time over phone lines and LANs/WANs.

Ibid, from MicroTouch, is aworkgroup-sized unit featuring a low price -- $499. It weighs 18 lbs.and comes with software and mounting hardware. Ibid can be controlledby a PC, or control various PC functions. At this low price point,schools can't afford not to consider such a useful tool.

The Softboard System 400 is aself-enclosed rear-projection system. It comprises a SoftBoard screenwith 35" x 47" active writing area, a VGA-resolution projector, DSPunit, infrared "active" pen, Intel ProShare conferencing software --everything needed to make high-tech presentations that includeparticipants from around the world.

For those who prefer to write on traditionalpaper, the Interactive FlipChart lets one do just that,and simultaneously record the information on a Windows PC. TheFlipChart uses standard 27" x 34" easel paper and includes anelectronic marker pen and all necessary cables.

Lastly, TEGRITY's Digital FlipChartuses a camera attached to an LCD projector to capture notes made on astandard whiteboard. Presenters can then edit captured pages or mergethem into other files. Proxima offers the Digital FlipChart in aspecial bundle that includes their portable Lightbookprojector.

New Display Technologies

The hot news in display technology is theemergence of Plasma Display Panels (PDP). Plasma displays use asealed glass envelope that has thousands of small, individuallycharged chambers that hold a mixture of neon and xenon gases. Whenthese chambers are energized, they glow brightly to generatebrilliant images. Image quality from these monitors has to be seen tobe believed, surpassing even high-end monitors currently available.Although availability is limited, and prices are quite high, thatwill change as production ramps up in the coming year.

Mitsubishi showed its 20-inch PDPprototype, paving the way for introduction of a 40-inch unit laterthis year. Because PDPs don't use a traditional CRT (cathode raytube), they need less components, making them slimmer and lighter;the 20-inch PDP measures only three inches deep and weighs about 25pounds. The 40-inch unit will weigh about 44 pounds.

NEC has also shown a 33-inch PDP prototype,and promises to introduce multimedia-capable PDPs designed to excelin presentations. NEC's plasma monitor, like most PDPs, features nodistortion or color divergence, no magnetic field emissions and awide viewing angle of 160 degrees. LCD monitors, using the sametechnology found in notebook computers, offer many of the samebenefits of PDPs.

CTX Opto has a line of LCD flat panels thatincludes their PanoView 600, which delivers true SVGAresolution. The 12.1-inch active matrix TFT panel comes with anergonomic, adjustable base or can be mounted on the wall. Since LCDmonitors, like PDPs, do not rely on CRTs, images are inherentlyflicker-free and emissions extremely low. For those who use mainlyVCRs and TVs for their presentations,

Sharp's 31- and 35-inchTV/VCR combination units supply theconvenience of a VCR and the large display of a traditionalbig-screen television. Front panel audio/video input jacks arestandard; a unique 2- Way Auto Load/Eject lets teachers convenientlyload and eject tapes via the remote control.

Zenith is releasing PC-readyTVs aimed at education. Their PresentationSeries, available in 35-, 32-, 27- and 25-inch models,incorporate video scan conversion by FOCUS Enhancements. This "PCZTV"approach displays crisp, flicker-free computer-generated images fromany Mac or PC.

Zenith Presentation Series,

If a more "personal" touch is called for, use aCarroll Touch 33-inch touchscreen with abig-screen display to control a PC without walking back and forthbetween the computer and display. Carroll Touch has touchscreens tofit most monitor sizes.

Other Tools of Note

Last, but not least, where would academicpresenters be without traditional media players for videotapes andvideodiscs? Panasonic, for instance, has a range of VCRs thathelp presenters make an impression. With MTS broadcast stereo, AutoDigital picture, VCR Lock and other advanced features, theirPV-4651 and PV-4652 VCRs bothretail for under $300. Pioneer is also well known by educatorsfor videodisc players. Training sessions, as well as titlebundles for different disciplines and grade levels, are offered bythe firm.

CD-i players are another useful tool.Philips has CD-i players and title bundles foreducation. And LG Electronics' new GDI-700M CD-iplayer's MPEG1 support plays up to 74 minutes of full-screen, full-motion video from a disc. Its serial port takes anexternal modem, suited to Internet training; a parallel port supportsprinters, etc.

Renewed by Apple's QuickTake,digital cameras can also be a big assist for presenters. One simplytakes a picture, downloads it into a computer, and manipulates itlike any other graphic. Kodak, Epson, Canon,Casio and others are all offering digitalcameras at prices ranging from $1,000 to $300.

Presentation technology has come a long way fromthe simple overhead projector. Nothing can keep an audience'sattention like a well-crafted, stimulating presentation using thetechnologies profiled here.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.