Beaming With Promise
Soon-arriving mini-projectors can display cell phone video on thenearest flat surface. That's reason for celebration, not dread.
A FAVORITE COLUMN OF MINE IS"Novelties" by Anne Eisenberg, whichappears in the Sunday edition of TheNew York Times. Recently, she wroteabout projectors that are shining downthe road. These are very small unitsthat "when plugged into cell phonesand portable media players will let consumersbeam video content from theirhandheld devices to the closest smoothsurface." The projectors are supposedto create a display of up to 50 or 60inches in a darkened place, and 7 to20 inches when there is ambient light.
The first models, set to be released by the end of the year at a price around $300, are expected to be freestanding and connected to phones and other devices by standard cable. "Later," Eisenberg writes, "the projector models will be directly embedded in phones, as cameras are today." Revenue forecasts from market research firm Insight Media are in the billions for these devices by 2012.
That isn't good news to Eisenberg, who foresees the new projectors as potential polluters once they're in the hands of cell phone users: "Soon you may have to watch [their] favorite television shows and YouTube videos as they project them onto nearby walls or commuter-train seatbacks."
Eisenberg's concerns may be legitimate in the outlying world, but in a controlled environment like education, I see something very different. I see the 81 percent of Americans between the ages of 5 and 24 who will own a cell phone by 2010, according to market analyst IDC, using the device constructively in school.
For many adults, one strike against the use of cell phones in education is their small screen, which inhibits any display of content, print, or video. These new projectors negate that argument. Think of the possibilities of this cell phone/projector compatibility: kids having easy access at all times to the most compelling content, and also being able to view that content easily with others. Think of teachers watching professional development videos while waiting for a driver's license renewal at the department of motor vehicles.
If projecting video from your cell phone isn't enough for you, another innovation will soon allow you to print the photos you've taken with the device. Coming this fall from Polaroid is a hand-sized printer that connects to your phone wirelessly through Bluetooth. Some phones will soon have printing capability built into them. Lyra Research, an imaging industry consultancy in Newtonville, MA, projects that 478 billion photographs will be taken worldwide in 2008, most of them with the 880 million camera phones that are now in use. Surely your students will want to print a few.
I have said that technology is following the same trend line that I am-smaller, thinner, faster, and cheaper. It's a trend that bodes well for education, if we have the wisdom to see the instructional potential of the devices that are available to our kids, and the courage to take advantage of it.
-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director
This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.