Presentation Devices Extend Reach Of Information to Entire Groups

Presentation devices are key to extending the reach of information from individuals to entire groups, large or small. In the past year, developers have introduced a host of new products that can help presenters capture an audience's attention.

And instructors at all grade levels have responded very favorably, leading to strong growth in this segment of the market. In fact, the last T.H.E Readers' Plans to Purchase survey indicated that educators planned to spend a record $198 million on multimedia projectors and $143 million on LCD panels in 1995 alone.

This article surveys the full range of presentation products suitable for education, from popular LCD panels and projectors to newer devices such as document cameras and electronic whiteboards. Emphasis is given to the latest models as well as trends for 1996 and beyond.

Gone are the days when a presenter must rely on dim or fuzzy images from an overhead projector. Today's LCD projectors, for example, deliver up to 16.7 million colors, stereo sound and much more. As technologies mature and more companies enter this market, expect products to fall further in price yet include lots of additional convenient features.

It should be noted that space limitations prevent a full listing of presentation devices, and many of the vendors mentioned in one category also offer products that fit another. We'll begin by examining a few LCD panels that suit the needs and budgets of most any educator.


LCD Panels Mature

Dukane recently entered this field with the MagniView line of panels. All three models ship with "light blockers," which slide out from underneath to cover the entire overhead stage and shield excess light. Plus, a "Freeze Image" function works much like a VCR pause button, stopping motion and fixing an image on the display, even if the video input is turned off.

In Focus Systems, meanwhile, has lowered prices on three of its LCD panels &emdash; the SmartView 3600, SmartView 2600 and PanelBook 450. The active-matrix SmartView 3600 now includes a larger LCD and increased palette of over 1.4 million colors.

Several manufacturers offer LCD panels especially designed for certain academic disciplines, such as CAD/CAM or medicine. The ProColor 1701 from Boxlight, for example, boasts a 10.4" display and 1,024 x 768 resolution, for maintaining acute fine line and small font detail.

Sharp's QA-2500 is a high-resolution panel that provides 24-bit color for full color rendition and saturation. "Other projection panels claiming 16 million colors produce these as a result of 'dithering,' a process that artificially generates colors," notes Ron Colgan, general manager of the Professional LCD Products Division.

Some panels let presenters write notes on the projected image, a concept pioneered by Chisholm's Rainbow series. Other devices integrate full computers with LCD panels. Besides an active-matrix display, the IntelliView from IntelliMedia combines a floppy drive, 250MB hard disk, 8MB of RAM, digital sound card and two internal speakers.

For best results, manufacturers recommend that panels be used with an overhead projector that transmits a minimum of 3,000 lumens. Those who lack access to such an OHP may consider investing in an LCD projector, which combines a panel and built-in light source.


Projectors Gain Ground

As with panels, the latest generation of LCD projectors are brighter, easier to setup, more portable and less expensive. In response to customer demands, Ask LCD has upgraded its Impression 750 projector to increase the illumination output from 120 to 170 lumens. A 50-hour EVD halogen lamp and motorized spare lamp changer ensure uninterrupted presentations.

EIKI unveiled several new presentation products at Comdex Fall '95 in Las Vegas, including the LC-4200 LCD projector. This unit, which fits into most airline baggage compartments, projects video and data to screens up to 10' wide. A ceiling mount is available for permanent installations.

Industry observers predict that sales of LCD projectors will further eclipse that of panels because they offer advantages such as support for more simultaneous inputs. Recognizing this trend, presentation companies have significantly enhanced their projection offerings (and several other firms have just entered this already crowded market).

Proxima announced three new models in its Desktop Projector line that can be used in lighted rooms. "Whether you're presenting information or manipulating data, now you can see your audience and they can see you," says Mary Z'eller, vice president of marketing.

Robert Pottberg, an administrative assistant with the Nutrition Animal Science department at Texas A&M University, uses a Proxima DP2800 to teach two courses. Faculty members there also show videos from companies with whom the university d'es research as career guidance for students.

Philips' LC3000 and LC2100 LCD projectors sport a built-in, cable-ready television tuner and closed caption decoder. A sealed optical light path eliminates the risk of dust, smoke or humidity contaminating mirrors and other sensitive components.

Other LCD projectors:

  • Plus Corp. of America introduces the DP-30, which can project transparencies, printed material and 3D objects onto most surfaces.
  • The Keystone Correction feature on Sayett Technology's Mediashow 840 projector optically optimizes image contrast for different lighting conditions and allows the unit to be placed in various positions.
  • With a focal distance from one meter to infinity, Polaroid's Polaview 105 can display images as large as 30' (diagonally). All units come with a 30-day Total Satisfaction Guarantee.
  • Expressly designed for education and training, the ELP-3000 from Epson connects to a PC, Mac or video equipment without a separate converter or adapter. Accessories include carrying cases and custom reflective lenses.
  • NEC's MultiSync Multimedia Theatre exploits the firm's patented LightGate technology to polarize and redirect light that would otherwise be lost or absorbed.

Besides LCD projectors, Electrohome offers the Marquee series of CRT projectors. 3D image capability is achieved with an optional P43 short persistence phosphor tube.


DLP Technology Hits Market

Perhaps one of the greatest breakthroughs in the presentation industry is the emergence of Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology. In the DLP process, images are reflected rather than transmitted through a matrix, leading to a higher perceived clarity and resolution.

Another advantage of DLP-based projectors is images are uniformly bright and consistent from wider viewing angles without distortion. Though relatively steep now, expect prices of DLP products to decrease as more companies adopt this technology.

Already, nVIEW has hit the market with a DLP projector, the Diamond D-400. It projects with 350 ANSI lumens in over 16.7 million colors using a 270 watt metal-halide bulb. The D-400 accepts up to four input sources and four stereo inputs.

Gary Fisher, marketing manager for Telex, says DLP offers many potential benefits to presenters, but says that he's also closely watching alternative research on plasma displays being conducted in Japan. Fisher notes that K-12 educators are demanding more sophisticated products without complex operating procedures.

Telex's MagnaByte P170 series features a concealed projection lens and illuminated control panel. Its Direct Access II enhances ease-of-use with onscreen menus, function controls on the projector itself and a backlit IR remote.


Document Cameras for 3D

Also called "video visualizers," document cameras marry a small color video camera to an overhead projector. The camera points down at a baseboard with lighting to display physical objects, instructor's notes or transparencies, etc.

Spurred, in part, by their usefulness in distance learning, document cameras continue to be refined. Sony's VID-P100, which replaces the VID-P11, employs fluorescent lamps on both sides of the stand to reduce reflection and provide correct illumination under any lighting conditions.

The VIZCAM from Canon employs a unique three-axis arm and rotational camera head for complete versatility in camera positioning and viewing angle. Each arm can be independently adjusted.

Elmo has introduced its fourth generation visual presenter, the EV-400AF, capable of being computer controlled. It has three video ouputs and four video inputs, plus one audio output, two audio input jacks and a microphone jack.

Other noteworthy products are VideoLabs' FlexCam and JVC's AV-P20U Visual Presenter.


Whiteboards & Monitors

Another presentation tool gaining popularity in distance learning is the electronic whiteboard, which takes anything drawn or written on its surface and displays it on a computer screen. Once reserved for high-priced corporate offices, whiteboards now come in sizes suited for small classrooms.

The model 205 SoftBoard from Microfield Graphics measures just 39" high by 40.5" wide with a writing area of 25.5" x 34". It comes with a mounting kit for fixed walls; optional kits hang the unit on cubicle partitions or place it on a tabletop. The SoftBoard also interfaces with PictureTel and VTEL videoconferencing systems.

A self-contained interactive whiteboard, the new Rear Projection SMART Board from SMART Technologies allows users to run and control applications and annotate projected images with the touch of a finger. Because the LCD projector sits behind the whiteboard (inside a cabinet), the presenter casts no shadows in front of the information.

Taking a different approach, rather than connecting to a computer, Panasonic's Panaboard prints out an 8.5" x 11" thermal sheet of paper of the screen's contents. Its durable surface, lined horizontally and vertically, wipes clean with the eraser provided.

For a more conventional display of presentations, Presenta Technologies offers the S29, a 29" monitor with a super flat CRT and INVAR shadow mask.

The MultiSync XM line from NEC Technololgies includes 29" and 37" models. The XM37 displays graphics up to 1,280 x 1,024 non-interlaced resolution.

For larger facilities, Thomson Consumer Electronics' ProScan 80690 80-inch television boasts a turbo tuner for faster channel lock-in, channel guide that lets one follow up to 12 channels simultaneously and new FIX+ Twin Tuner picture-in-picture enhancements. Its projection optics fold into the free-standing cabinet, reducing depth to 24".


Other Helpful Gadgets

Many third parties sell separate gadgets that can facilitate presentations. Although many of the products mentioned include built-in speakers, serious presenters should consider an external sound system. Bose's MediaMate compact computer speakers provide the rich deep bass sound usually available only from larger home-stereo speakers. International Jensen, Yamaha and many other firms also make multimedia speakers.

And presenters who like to roam may wish to look into a cordless public address system, such as Apollo's PA-5000 and PA-6000. With either system, one attaches a clip-on microphone to a tie, breast pocket or jacket lapel and a 9-volt-operated transmitter to a belt. The presenter's voice is transmitted to an amplifier and broadcast through the speaker.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.