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The (Great) AV Treasure Hunt
By Greg Bronson, CTS-D
The members of the AV Club should be relatively unphased by, and perhaps even thrive on, the myriad of technical idiosyncrasies that seem to come with working with AV systems in education. We grumble when “others” phase out, or come up with new, promising technology, seemingly unaware of how their actions may leave our applications high and dry. Nonetheless, we commiserate amongst ourselves, gain working knowledge on the technology hurdles of the day and set out to find possible solutions. It would all be a little unsettling… if it wasn’t also a bit like a treasure hunt!
You know what I mean… if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be a career AV professional!
Of course, the mecca of the AV Club treasure seeker: InfoComm09 just wrapped up at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. Treasure seekers scrambled amongst the more than 850 exhibitors on the show floor, sharpening their seeking skills and picking from some 300 educational opportunities. And, don’t forget about Educomm, just a stone’s throw away (well, actually a good bit more than that…), where a stronger emphasis on the real End User provided even more clues about the ultimate treasure(s).
So, here are the “rules” of the treasure hunt. I’ll list “clues” I’ve heard/seen other AV Clubbers grumble about lately (with a bit of my own take sprinkled in). You’ll read the clues – merge them with your own experience, and form theories for possible solutions. Theories can be tested (and collaborated on) via discussion lists like the rAVe Nation Education Forum or perhaps the AV-1 list (a popular current favorite). Those unwilling to share knowledge and clues along the way (effectively trying to “grab up the whole scene,” a la It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) will only stifle timely progress.
OK. Ready? Here we go.
1st Clue: And this hurts, coming from a guy who uses the word “innovative” in the first sentence of his bio. Due to budget situations, we’re mostly back to basics. Bells and whistles will be an especially hard sell, with the ripple effects of budget cropping continuing to redefine “doing more with less.” A big part of that “less” is less people to cover a growing inventory. Treasures come in the form of things that work rock solid and can be remotely managed (Ethernet, not Sneakernet).
2nd Clue: Green AV means more than just hype (and, I’m sorry, but it’s borderline overhyped at this point). It really does offer opportunity for real value to organizations, with potential to save on energy use, reduced maintenance (through managed run time) and less waste. Treasures come in the form of room-based videoconferencing that’s built around CODECs that are priced like they’re truly aware of the footsteps heard from desktop applications. More treasures are found with organizations that “get it” and make videoconferencing simply a way of work life.
3rd Clue: HD video (high resolution wide screen) is a wonderful thing… if it works “end to end.” We’re getting squeezed between new products that are dropping support for analog transport of HD signals (that worked just fine, thank you) and multiple flavors of digital transport popping up all around us (that work within narrow constraints, thank you very little). Treasures come in the form of maintaining legacy analog HD interconnects until a digital standard proves to work in our applications. Which, by the way (Legal Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney, and this is not legal advice) means an educator’s legitimate uses of content for instruction won’t be preempted or otherwise “dumbed down” by broad stroke encryption like HDCP.
4th Clue: As it’s been said many times, the face of an AV system is its control interface. And real end users are still needlessly tortured by the interfaces. We’re still out of balance here folks. Maybe 20 percent of new and existing systems are better off as a “unique” custom layout/function. The remaining 80 percent simply need basic controls placed in a consistent orientation (say, ummm… Dashboard for Controls Template?). Treasures come in the form of touch panel programming, as well as button panels, with the primary (basic) controls in the regions of the DFC control panel template.
Last Clue (actually, purely just a rant): Will somebody talk to PC (and portable media device) manufacturers about the 1/8” unbalanced mini connectors? If you must fiddle with connections, how about looking past the external video/monitor port and ADDING A BALANCED LINE OUTPUT!?? I’ll even settle for yet another one of those crazy proprietary connectors (with accompanying ransom price) to adapt it to Pro AV systems!
Happy AV Treasure Hunting! If you have a Clue, be sure to share it.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors’ employer(s), past or present.
Greg Bronson, CTS-D, applies AV technologies in the development of innovative learning spaces for higher education. Greg spent the first 10 years of his career as AV technician and service manager, with the past 12 years as an AV system designer and project manager. Bronson currently works for Cornell University and has also worked for two SUNY (State University of New York) campuses as well as a regional secondary education service depot. Bronson is the originator of concept for Infocomm’s Dashboard for Controls and has had completed projects featured in industry publications. You can reach Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Extron Launches Touch Panels for MediaLink Line Aimed at Education
With the launch of their new TouchLink line of touch panels at InfoComm, Extron is truly a full-fledged control system company. TouchLink is being promoted as the first fully configuration-based touch panel control system with the power to handle the control needs of single classrooms rooms, dual-display rooms, divisible meeting rooms, multi-image systems, and even video conference suites. TouchLink Control Systems can be deployed much faster than traditional programmable control systems and are easier and less costly to support. The new TouchLink products include three touch panel models, an Ethernet control processor, and Extron GUI Configurator Software. TouchLink Control Systems integrate seamlessly with the award-winning Extron GlobalViewer Enterprise software and Free GlobalViewer Web application for complete A/V resource monitoring, management, and control over a computer network.
The TouchLink touch panels come in three sizes and form-factors. The TLP 700MV is designed for mounting into a lectern or wall and features a 7" touch screen, ten field-labelable backlit buttons, and a large volume control knob. The TLP 700TV is designed for tabletop use or VESA mounting and features a 7" touch screen, ten field-labelable backlit buttons, and a large volume control knob. The TLP 350CV is a Cable Cubby version that features a 3.5" touch screen, ten customizable backlit external buttons, interior LED lighting, and convenient cable connectivity, using Extron's wide array of AAP – ArchitecturalAdapter Plates. Also being introduced is the IPL 250 Ethernet control processor, designed specifically to provide the A/V device connectivity for TouchLink panels.
Check them all out at: http://www.extron.com/product/prodtype35.aspx
Or, take a look at this video rAVe shot at InfoComm of Extron’s president introducing them himself: http://www.vimeo.com/5188623
And, here’s an inside look at TouchLink via video: http://www.vimeo.com/5188723
While real end users (and technology managers alike) seem to gravitate to “basic” (like on/off, source select, volume control) button panels, they also generally recognize that feature rich AV installs benefit from touch panels. This product line seems to have elements of both.
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Gyration Debuts Multi-Mouse Mouse
If you like the Nintendo Wii controller, you’ll love having this mouse in your classroom. Doubling as a desktop mouse for a PC, you can lift the Gyration Go Pro Air Mouse all over the place to add functionality beyond just changing slides in a presentation including annotation, bulleting slides and activating presentation special effects.
Here’s a video we shot at InfoComm: http://www.vimeo.com/5235937
You can see all the details about specs and pricing here: http://www.gyration.com/default.aspx?l=en#productDetail/office/goProMouse
While I’ve not yet used this latest model, I’ve found the Gyration products to be intuitive (with a cool factor to boot). But, having never used a Wii controller (don’t think less of me?) I can only speculate some (small?) contingent of folks just won’t get it.
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Anoto's penPresenter Shocks All at InfoComm
This was one of the coolest education-market products we saw at the show. Dubbed the penPresenter, little-known Anoto allows you to annotate over PowerPoint slides WITHOUT anything but printed-out notes from your slides and a clipboard in your hand. It’s almost impossible to describe, so go watch this video: http://www.vimeo.com/5236690
Amazing, huh? The penPresenter is available now and you can see all the specs here: http://www.anoto.com/anotopenpresenter.aspx
While I’d prefer not printing hard copy, there certainly are still a lot of end users that would. The video really does help give an idea of how it works!
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Extron Shows Flat-Field Speaker for Classrooms
Perfect for distributed audio in a classroom, the new Extron FF 120T is a full-range sound field speaker for 70 volt/100 volt systems. The FF 120T features Extron patent-pending Flat Field technology that reduces beaming of mid- and high-range frequencies directly under the speaker, delivering consistent sound levels across the listening area. In addition, the FF 120T offers an extraordinarily wide dispersion area of 170 degrees, providing a very wide room coverage pattern that is especially important for rooms with low ceilings.
An Extron exclusive, UL 2043 plenum rated, 1' x 2' (30.5 cm x 61 cm) by 3.25" (8.3 cm) deep aluminized composite enclosure drops into standard suspended ceilings providing quicker installations. With a low profile enclosure, this speaker is an excellent choice for ceiling installations with tight above-the-ceiling space issues.
Extron produced a simple online educational demo of how the flat-field speaker works here: http://www.extron.com/company/article.aspx?id=ffsad
And, we shot video of Extron’s president at InfoComm introducing it here: http://www.vimeo.com/5189253
See at the Flat Field specs at: http://www.extron.com/product/product.aspx?id=ff120t
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3M Launches Multi-Touch Touch Screen Overlay Kit for 19" Monitors
No one denies that touch screen displays are way more interactive that regular flat-screen displays. And, 3M has added to the mix by introducing a multi-touch developer kit that tracks up to 10 individual fingers and is compatible with the Microsoft Windows 7 platform. Here’s a video we shot at InfoComm 09: http://www.vimeo.com/5219956
The 3M Multi-Touch Developer Kit is a 19-inch wide-aspect ratio LCD display featuring 3M Projected Capacitive touch technology. Supporting standard flick and scale gestures, as well as accurately tracking 10 individual fingers from single or multiple users, this display has a durable glass surface and less than 15 milliseconds touch response, making it ideal for developing next-generation games and user applications.
The 3M Multi-touch Developer Kit includes the 19-inch wide-aspect ratio (16:10, 1440 x 900 resolution) LCD chassis display, desktop stand, USB and VGA cables, plus access to the password-secure 3M Multi-touch Developer Program site for firmware updates, on-line technical support, and hosted developer forum. 3M Multi-touch Developer Kit can be pre-ordered for the introductory price of $999 for delivery in July, 2009. Visit http://www.3m.com/multitouch for pre-ordering details.
You can see all the details here.
Talking about “not getting it,” I really didn’t get the general category of multi-touch, initially. But now that I’ve had my hands (and feet) on some applications, it’s opened my eyes on how interface interaction will expand.
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Sanyo Launches Two New Projectors Aimed at ED Market at InfoComm
Targeting the K-12 educational market, two new projectors from Sanyo, the 1024 x 768 resolution PLC-XW250 and the PLC-XW200, provide a special eco power stand-by mode that only consumes 0.4 watts. Looking almost identical, both models have a contrast ratio of 500:1, use a 220-watt lamp, include both analog XGA and Component Video ports and both are IP-enabled. The difference? Well, the XW250 is 2600 ANSI lumens and the XW200 is 2200 lumens.
Available later this month, both models can be found, in detail, here: http://us.sanyo.com:80/Projectors-by-Market-Education-Classroom/PLC-XW250
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TECOM Launches New TechPod Presenter for K-12 and Higher-Ed
Designed as an ADA-compliant height-adjustable lectern, the TechPod Presenter is a 3rd generation product from TECOM that includes a built-in Windows-based PC (with tablet/annotation built into it), a DVD player, a lectern mic and even a USB-stick port to allow for on-the-fly presentation from any media – even MAC files. Its shipping now and you can watch these videos we shot at InfoComm last week to see it for yourself:
1st video: http://www.vimeo.com/5234455
2nd video: http://www.vimeo.com/5234466
You can se the TechPod and its specs at: http://www.techpod.com/
In reading this, I’m struck by how far AV in education has come, with such detailed niche products available. While I’m not sure how the final package will be in practice, I’m hard pressed to come up with a high demand function that’s been overlooked
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Bretford Shows the Ultimate Cart for Schools
Reinforcing its emphasis on the manufacturing of technology carts that support and safeguard the AV gear they hold, Bretford Manufacturing, today began shipping the new Presenter’s Assistant for Learning (PAL) cart. Designed for education, business and hospitality environments, the PAL cart provides a single location to house all equipment in a complete multimedia station that is small and simple to move, yet durable enough to secure the technology and protect the people using it.
The new PAL cart supports a data projector, a document camera, a DVD player, an MP3 player, sound system, gaming console, rack-mounted electronics, two equipment shelves, and a pull-out shelf for a laptop computer, resulting in endless technology combinations. Along with its small footprint, the cart features a wrap-around, full-length rear door to maintain a compact profile and provides simple access to all electronics from the back of the cart where the presenter will likely be standing. Additionally, the PAL cart’s designer casters and handle allow for easy positioning of the equipment during use, and smooth and steady movement into an AV storage closet or another location while in transit.
Check it out at: http://www.bretford.com/products/overview.asp?id=342
Is there something about all-in-one AV carts and acronyms? I seem to remember a peer institution that called their home-brewed all-in-one: COW (Classroom on Wheels). Think I’d prefer a PAL, to a COW, if I was so inclined.
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Well, that's it for this edition of rAVe! Thank you for spending time with us as we muse the industry's happenings. To continue getting my newsletter, or to sign up a friend, click the link below. To send feedback, don't reply to this newsletter – instead, write to Contributing Editor Greg Bronson at email@example.com, Publisher Gary Kayye at firstname.lastname@example.org or Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at email@example.com
A little about Gary Kayye, CTS, founder of rAVe and Kayye Consulting. Gary Kayye, an audiovisual veteran and columnist, began the widely-read KNews, a premier industry newsletter, in the late 1990s, and created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which later became InfoComm IQ. Kayye Consulting is a company that is committed to furthering the interests and success of dealers, manufacturers, and other companies within the professional audiovisual industry.
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