iTouch, You Touch, Multi-touch Too!
By Greg Bronson, CTS-D
This month’s AV Club isn’t about Pro AV in Education, per se. It’s actually more about consumer electronics in everyday life. While ProAV may be typified by developing custom solutions for use in traditional education environments, consumer electronics are often new variations on the latest gadgets. Of course, the two are completely different animals, and have little bearing on each other. And if you believe that…
About a year and a half ago, I decided to replace my still working (but with limited memory) MP3 player with an iPod Nano. In large part, I justified not purchasing a cheaper, generic MP3 player because I wanted to fully experience the iPod interface that’s drawn so much attention in consumer electronics (including, obviously, influencing AV in Education).
In using the interface on the Nano, I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. Don’t get me wrong, as a “package” the unit was slick. The super slim body, bright (w/ gyro image rotate) screen, and album art “bell curve” scroll were all high on the cool-factor chart. However, there were also some annoyances — headphone amp with minimal headroom before clipping, getting lost in layers of menus, and an inability to get any digital video from a variety of cameras to play. But the biggest head scratcher was the interface. Functional? Yes. Intuitive? Sure — perhaps in part due to many years behind the controls of the jog dial on my long since worn out Sony HiFi VHS deck. The thing is though, up until I lost the little bugger, the interface presented pretty much equal parts function and frustration. Not the paradigm shift in user experience, at least for me, that I was anticipating.
Then the iPod Touch entered my life.
But before moving on to my contrasting iPod Touch experience (both of these things are called iPods?), there’s something else to bring up. That is, when it comes to conventional interfaces, they’re pretty much variations on the same theme; you touch them and they do something in response. Actually, let’s be more specific, you touch a button and an event happens — be it a single action, or a string of actions. It’s all pretty linear. And so it should be, since much of what we encounter in manipulating such devices *is* linear.
For example, if I want to play a song on my digital music device, the button with a right sideways arrowhead gets pressed. If I want to stop, push the square. As long as the interface isn’t an Easter egg hunt (no matter how colorful the eggs) for the most often-used buttons, more than half the battle is won.
Where things get kicked up a notch is with control functions that aren’t quite so linear. For example, if I’m not so sure what song I’m in the mood to play, I might want to browse the collection. This may be accomplished by showing page by page listings of songs. The interface may permit this with menu selections, repurposed arrow buttons or by adding clutter with more buttons dedicated to the specific task. Ultimately, though, it’s a matter of taking a not-so-linear user interaction fitted to a linear interface.
Once the mourning period after the somewhat mysterious Nano disappearance was over, and Father’s Day was conveniently around the corner, the Nano was replaced with an iPod Touch. Truth be told, even before getting the Nano, I was really getting intrigued by the iPod Touch’s features, aside from the media player stuff. High on that list was Wi-Fi, the browser (Safari), and a larger screen for picture viewing. And so it does all those and so much more! Did I mention it’s a digital music player? But the golden nugget is the interface. While I knew it was a touch screen interface (which elegantly creates virtual “buttons” for all linear functions), it seamlessly uses multi-touch too!
This goes back to the example of not-so-linear browsing of songs, which now can be controlled by stroking your finger across the screen, as selections scroll by at a speed proportional to the finger stroke. Picture viewing actions of zooming in and out are accomplished by opening or closing two fingers, “pinching” the picture. Checking email is a quick, easy and casual flicking of the finger to harvest From and Subject headers for what needs immediate tending to. All of these things truly enhance the user experience with a not so linear feel.
So, AV Club members, if you’re somewhat behind the times (as I was) on digital media players and/or personal productivity devices, have a look at the iPod Touch (or other multi-touch look-a-likes). It lends itself well to a number of common interface tasks. Beyond this, it’s a kind of technology that will most assuredly impact the real end user’s expectations of AV systems. And lastly, there seems to be a strong (yet untapped) potential for the technology supporting educational collaborators (emphasis on plural) by way of a more fluid interaction with the media and content, as well as with each other.
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 email@example.com
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Will the iPad be a Game-Changer for K12?
By Neil Willis, RCDD
On the evening of April 2nd, I sat in my hotel room highly anticipating the next morning. You see, not only was I on a family vacation at Disney, but the 3rd of April marked an even bigger event than Space Mountain itself. The Apple iPad was scheduled to be released, and I had read enough reviews to recognize what a breakthrough it would be.
As an engineer and integrator for schools, my gut had been telling me that the iPad would quickly replace the Kindle electronic textbook as well as the SMART Technologies Airliner slate for navigation. Like other Apple products, it appeared to be similarly intuitive and potentially addicting to use. But would the device be applicable in a classroom environment for teachers and/or students? I knew it was not intended to be a laptop or PC replacement; that is not how Apple was marketing the product. I saw it as a new HMI (Human to Machine Interface) or modality that would fill a gap between the smartphone and the laptop computer.
I had already pre-ordered the device from the online store, but delivery was scheduled for the office back home, and I was beginning to wonder if I could hold off that long without at least a peek at the new marvel. Lucky for me, my wife and two teenage boys are kindred tech geeks and didn't find it odd to sacrifice a few hours of Disney magic to wait with Dad in the line at Best Buy in order to catch the main event. So at 7 a.m., I launched my maps App and drove my family to the closest Best Buy (Kissimmee), wondering if I would be too late or if this would be like the Wii wild rush of 2008. As fate would have it, I won a golden ticket and became the proud owner of my second iPad before even taking possession of my first. Synching to my wife's Macbook was a breeze, so I downloaded a few Apps and then made my first mistake – I handed it over to my kids.
Will students use it?
I couldn't get within three feet of my iPad for the next two hours. My two boys exercised squatter's rights and retreated to their own private world of touch screen bliss. Their fingers glided over the screen, coaxing instant messaging with friends and maneuvering characters and scenes in their game Apps. Easy-to-master, intuitively responsive, and just a few degrees difference from other Apple devices already used by students, there is no doubt that students will eagerly adopt this technology. And not just young students — my wife has returned to school for a law degree, and she prefers this lightweight and portable tool to navigate websites, presentations, and e-books. Did I mention that no instructions were needed?
As a classroom presentation tool
My next test was to evaluate the iPad's potential to replace popular classroom navigation devices such as interactive whiteboards and even more specifically, slate-style navigation devices. It has been my observation that the wireless slate is the input device of choice for students who have reached the middle and high school years because those students are not particularly excited about going up to a whiteboard. The more popular slates in the marketplace include a blank gray surface for navigating a stylus. This has proven frustrating for the user who must annotate on the slate while watching the distant projector screen or display. The iPad immediately solves this dilemma through the utilization of a VNC app, providing complete localization for the projector screen and tablet — not to mention that the device weighs only 1.5 lbs, facilitating an easy walk around the classroom while annotating content. One missing ingredient that cannot materialize quickly enough is the ability to incorporate handwriting and annotation on the screen. I have heard of several products in the works but none in production as of this writing.
The second benefit as a classroom presentation tool is the ability to display content from the iPad to the projector or large format display via the docking station. I know you can already do this with an existing laptop or PC, but not with nearly the level of “cool” inherent with the iPad. One moment you're in the teacher workroom downloading presentation content from your classroom drop-box, the next you are displaying it on the large screen for all to see. As stated before, this device does not replace the modalities in a classroom, it simply provides a quicker, easier way to do certain things.
Touch Panel Control Interface
Control systems manufacturers have long deployed interactive touch screens for use in boardrooms, lecture halls and other education spaces, centralizing and facilitating control of linear media devices such as screens, projectors, lighting, and displays. Sticker shock has accompanied this technology, putting this higher level of functionality out of reach of most K12 environments. The iPad bridges the gap, allowing manufacturers such as Crestron and AMX to build apps that transform the iPad into a display. Do you think these manufacturers will sell more control systems with the help of iPad?
Electronic Text Books
Too bad the Kindle doesn't weigh more — it really won't make a very good boat anchor. Imagine the water cooler conversation in a year or so: "Do you remember that thing called the Kindle? Yeah, it was that device that you read in black and white only and included a beta browser even though it was out for over two years." Readers loved the Kindle for one reason, and it was not because it was a good e-book reader. It was because it could access (a limited amount of) content anywhere within the Sprint EVDO network and download a book in less than a minute. That was the magic. From its inception, its early-adopter users were already screaming for enhancements to address glaring limitations for which they were already accustomed in most other products. Limitations that included…
- B&W only screen,
- Limited support for PDFs,
- Basic browser operation,
- No playback of multimedia content, and,
- Storage for MP3s but no UI to navigate
The media market has for weeks called the iPad the "Kindle Killer" and for good reason. But do not count Amazon out. Amazon is in the content business, not the hardware business. When they couldn't find a reliable hardware platform to deliver their content, they built it. So I believe that Amazon will be pleased to view the iPad more as another delivery endpoint for their content than the "Kindle Killer."
So what about schools? Eleven schools in South Carolina will embark on a pilot to explore the advantages and disadvantages of replacing traditional books with electronic textbooks. Aside from the sheer weight of books (roughly 20 lbs. strapped on a young junior high frame), I believe that the benefits will be numerous, including…
- Dynamic update of content by publishers,
- Reduced cost of content distribution,
- Electronic annotation of content by teacher and student,
- Increased written collaboration with teacher,
- Integration of written content with multimedia,
- Adaptive content testing interface, and
- Open e-book standard adoption
Normally when I travel, I carry my Kindle loaded with books I am interested in reading and my iPhone with movies. Shortly after getting my iPad, I had a business trip scheduled and decided that this would be my default entertainment and reading device while flying. I began the trip with Braveheart and some videos my boys had produced in school. The iPad's crisp, IPS (in-plane switching) display seemed to upgrade the video content, giving Braveheart a flawless look and the home videos a more professional-grade quality.
Viewing left me desiring more. I called my kids and asked them to upload additional content to my home computer's iDisk (MobileMe) account. Upon securing MiFi (Verizon) access, I was instantly downloading additional content to my iPad. This process could easily be replicated in an educational setting. Content created by the student on the iPad or home PC could be synchronized online with the classroom Dropbox. The teacher could then review the content from anywhere (once synched to the cloud) and then display it from the iPad dock to the classroom projector or display. With full support for HD video and codecs like H.264 and the highly-anticipated HTML5 (WebM), this will provide the classroom with a rich multimedia experience, much more engaging than viewing a web page or Powerpoint presentation.
There is no question that the iPad has the potential to become a game-changer or disrupter inside this space. Apple has persistently focused on the “why” of technology, and its dominance in content organization and delivery has positioned them for a resurgence of acceptance within the education community.
The educator's goal is to effectively educate students from all walks of life and with varying degrees of intelligence and learning abilities, with the purpose of empowering them to reach their full potential. We owe it to these students to continually strive for the best tools possible to achieve this goal; therefore, it is my recommendation that system integrators and education technologists explore the possibilities that the iPad can introduce.
Neil Willis, RCDD is owner and CEO of AV Super-Integrator Cynergi Systems, which provides IT/AV integration services for education and healthcare customers in the Carolinas and Georgia. Mr. Willis also is the founder of CQ Media Networks, a content delivery systems developer that specialize in the same markets. CQ Media's products include Hypersign Digital Signage Service, CQ Campus IPTV platform for Education, LifeVue IPTV Platform for Healthcare and CloudCaster, an online television broadcasting service. Mr. Willis' companies have been awarded regionally and nationally over 17 times, including a special on CNBC. For more information on Cynergi Systems go to http://www.cynergisystems.com and for CQ Media products go to http://www.cqmedia.net. Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Vaddio Launches Videoconferencing Furniture Aimed at ED Market
Vaddio, known better as a manufacturer of pan/tilt/zoom cameras and high-end camera control systems, has entered the contemporary furniture market with a line designed specifically for classrooms using videoconferencing. The Vaddio Edge Videoconferencing Carts and Instrukt Educational Teaching Stations are designed to accommodate 32”-65” LCDs and Plasmas as well as VTC cameras and codecs with additional AV gear rack space too. Additional camera mounting systems for the Edge Series provide a platform for the Vaddio ClearVIEW HD-18, Polycom EagleEye, TANDBERG Precision HD cameras, as well as a variety of other popular PTZ cameras on the market.
To see the entire line, go to: http://vaddio.com/categories.php?catid=85
Seems like a logical extension of their product line, with some non-electronic pieces (like camera shelves) already in their portfolio. That said, there are already several furniture-type manufacturers already in the cart/teaching station market.
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Dukane Takes Aim at ED Market, Again
Dukane isn’t at the level of Sanyo or NEC in the projector world, but many counted Dukane down and out in the projector market just a few years ago. Their latest offering is a WXGA (1280×800) model dubbed the 8924HW-RJ and it’s spec’d at 3000 lumens, with a 5000-hour lamp and a 2000:1 contrast ratio.
Clearly aimed for the education market, the 8924W-RJ includes a few unique features including the ability to route the audio — line AND mic — through the projector (to use the projector as a 16-watt speaker, if you’re that cheap), but Dukane actually also allows you to use the audio even with the projector off in case you’re connected to in-room speakers. It’s a networked AV product, has VGA and HDMI inputs and includes a 5-year warranty. You can see all the details here: http://www.dukane.com/av/products/LCDProjectors.asp
If one *was* to use the internal audio for playback and/or mic (being careful to make sure it’s applicable to the room), then the audio still on when projector is off feature is a useful enhancement.
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Mobile Projectors With Autofocus from NEC
With its mobile DLP projectors NEC NP64 and NP43, NEC Display Solutions has launched the successors to its NP62 and NP41. Both models feature an autofocus function and simple operation with long lamp life and a brightness of 3000 and 2300 ANSI lumens, respectively, with a contrast ratio of 1600:1. Both the NP64 and NP43 deliver images in XGA resolution (1024×768).
Thanks to automatic power-on, signal detection, automatic focus and auto keystone correction, the projectors are extremely easy and quick to set up and NEC says an Eco-mode lowers the operating cost by extending lamp life up to 3500 hours and reducing power consumption. In addition, NEC has integrated a “carbon savings meter” to support GreenAV corporate initiatives by encouraging users to operate the projectors in Eco-mode and calculates the CO2 savings. You can see all the specs on the $899 NP43 and the $1099 NP64 here: http://www.necdisplay.com/Products/Series/?series=2a3a3e97-a6cf-4627-aa3e-31992d8b6839
For some traveling faculty, auto “everything” can reduce angst for self-service setups. The carbon savings meter is an interesting feature that might (hopefully) make individuals aware that small choices can add up to big differences.
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WolfVision Shows Two New Visualizers
For more than two decades, WolfVision's Professional Visualizers have been regarded as the ultimate high-end units on the market. The first Visualizer VZ-10, launched at the Photokina in 1988, already contained WolfVision's patented recording system through two mirrors and synchronized light/image lenses.
Now in the 22nd year of its existence, the latest models VZ-P18 and VZ-P38 have a completely redesigned housing. They’re also packed with all-new features including a touch screen remote control, an integrated live image preview monitor and a "digital pointer" that can be adapted in size and color.
In addition to the remote control, a second LCD monitor can be found on the top mirror of the VZ-P18 and VZ-P38. This monitor is designed as a preview monitor for live image display, however, in case the remote control is unavailable, it can also be used as a touch screen monitor for controlling VZ-P18 and VZ-P38. For simplicity sake, Wolf made the functionality of this monitor identical to the touch screen monitor of the remote control.
Both new Visualizers offer native SXGA, WXGA and 720p resolution with 30 frames per second and sRGB color precision. The VZ-P18 achieves perfect picture quality with a 1-CCD camera, while the VZ-P38 is equipped with a 3-CCD camera. The advantages of the 3-CCD camera are even more lifelike colors and higher resolution with very detailed colored objects. You can see all the specs here: http://www.wolfvision.com/wolf/products-vzp18-38.html
Wow, twenty-two years! At the campus I worked at, at that time, we hosted one of their overseas engineers to discuss some product enhancements (largely centered around the fact that the real end user doesn’t read instructions!)
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Sanyo's New 3800-Lumen WXGA — A Market Leader
If you’re not integrating wide-screen LCDs in classrooms by now, you’re about to start. There’s a new generation of WXGA (1280×800) resolution projectors hitting the market that are bright and cheaper than 4:3 projection. Sanyo’s ED market leader is their new 3LCD, WXGA resolution PLC-WXU700 — already shipping — with built in 802.11n wireless projection (the first on the market to do so). It’s 3800 lumens, is spec’d to have 85 percent uniformity and is only 31dBA. And, at 7 pounds, it’s perfect for portable or install applications.
To see all the specs, go to: http://us.sanyo.com:80/Projectors-by-Market-Education-Classroom/PLC-WXU700A
Here, here — to the need for integrating wide-screen LCDs!
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Extron Adds Features to ProAV Surround Sound Processor
Extron has added several new features for the SSP 7.1 Surround Sound Processor, including a seven-channel, nine-band parametric EQ; Live and Emulate operation modes with configuration file saving; and up to 100 ms of lip sync adjustment on each input. These new features can be accessed with Version 2.0 of the Setup and Control Software, which provides a user-friendly interface for simplified setup and control of the SSP 7.1, as well as calibration of the sound system. The upgrade is included with SSP 7.1 units now shipping, and is available as a free software download and firmware update for current users.
The SSP 7.1 was launched earlier this year and you can see all the product details here: http://www.extron.com/company/article.aspx?id=sspad&s=0
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NEC Adds 16:4 Aspect Ratio LCD to Digital Signage Line
Earlier this month, NEC Display announced a unique addition to its X Series, a 43-inch X431BT bar-type (for lack of a better term) display with 1920×480 native resolution and 700 cd/m² maximum brightness. Everyone, including NEC, has 16:9 LCDs for DS applications, but not everyone is looking at different, unique sized applications. InfoComm saw the availability of Christie’s MicroTiles, but this is a flat panel, direct-view LCD monitor that’s basically a long, thin strip.
The X431BT includes DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI-D connectivity, capability to be mounted in both landscape and portrait orientation, includes Picture in Picture (PIP), Picture on Picture (POP) and side-by-side display modes and two inputs can be displayed simultaneously in any of the modes by either maintaining one aspect ratio or evenly stretching both images to fill each half of the screen.
To see all the tech specs, go to: http://www.necdisplay.com/Products/Product/?product=d42d107d-3848-4120-9669-b0d0903691b0
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Dukane Launches New Classroom Cart
We love the compatibility of this new cart from Dukane. It’s not the most attractive classroom cart ever — but then again, most lecture carts being used in K-12 are pretty unattractive.
Dubbed the Mini Mobile Projection system, it’s marketed by Dukane as an option for schools that can’t afford one projector in each classroom but still need the technology. Designed to be used with any portable projector you want, the cart is all metal and on wheels. It’s already integrated with a gooseneck document camera, includes a DVD/VCR combo player, and has built-in speakers. And, it locks.
But, it’s cheap! Check it out at: http://www.dukane.com/av/products/mps.asp?Model=mps
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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
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