PRESENTATION TECHNOLOGY Empowering Presenters

Presenters are being spoilt. There’s now wealth of product enhancements and new devices to help make their job both easier and more effective.

Projected images
As always, data projectors lead the technology advance and, as usual, it hasn’t been without controversy. One point of contention has been wireless capability – while many manufacturers are building in wireless functionality, there are many people who question the need. According to Julian Lefebvre, whose company Black Diamond Technologies markets the Mitsubishi brand, everybody is talking about it but nobody is actually using it.

“It’s painfully slow and you can’t use video – it bores me to tears,” he says. “We recommend an external wireless access point when needed rather than investing in built-in technology, because half the time you’re never going to use it. Most manufacturers went wireless in vain attempt to market some differentiation. But the market isn’t responding so it is bit of fad.”

Canon’s Steve Moulden agrees that wireless does have limited appeal, but it should appeal to presenters who want more flexibility on where they place their laptop in relation to the projector. It’s all about providing less restrictions and greater control, and building on the ‘wow’ factor -“look Ma, no cables!” From practical viewpoint, wireless means the elimination of most cables, which means there is less risk of people tripping over any. But remember that certain wireless technologies are still subject to interference.

Projectors continue to evolve into smaller, lighter, brighter (and quieter) devices, making them more portable, and more able to cope in brightly-lit situations. Philips bSure multimedia projectors, for example, offer up to 2500 ANSI lumens, which means they can operate in full daylight – no need to pull the curtains! Like all modern-day projectors, the bSures are designed to minimise stress levels for presenters, offering plug-and-play connectivity, intuitive one-touch operation and simple on-screen menus. Lamp life is impressive too – up to 6000 hours.

Security is now an issue with projectors. The new Panasonic PT-L735NTE is one of the first to offer user password lock. It also has SD Card technology for PC-free presentations (PC-free operation is becoming very popular), and wireless LAN capability, plus special meeting mode that lets the projector receive data from several different PCs without switching input settings.

Look at the spec sheet of any data projector on the market and you’ll be amazed at the high level of standard features – such as XGA (1024 x 768) resolution, speed start, text superimposing, horizontal/vertical digital keystone correction, and much more. New zoom lenses also mean that projectors can be sited much closer to screens (as little as three metres away) which is ideal for small rooms.

The portability factor
The portable projector marketplace has always been hotly contested, and the heat was turned up even further when HP introduced its stylish sb21 and xb31 late last year. Since the merger with Compaq in May 2002, the projector market has become major focus for Hewlett-Packard. The xb31 weighs in at 1.6 kilograms, while the diminutive sb21 tips the scales at one kilogram – shade heavier than the baby PLUS at 900 grams. These featherweights utilise DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology, which is generally regarded as better way to get more light output from small package. DLP light engine consists of single tiny chip rather than three LCD panels.

A number of projector manufacturers have introduced multiuse projectors to the market in recent times, capitalising on the trend of business users taking projectors home for entertainment purposes. As evident at this year’s InfoComm trade show, the multiuse projector market is expected to grow, encouraging improved video qualities, higher contrast ratios and even higher native resolutions.

InfoComm was also the launching pad for number of new projection accessories. One of note came from US-company iMatte, and will hopefully make its way to this country.

The iSkia is an infra-red sensor device mounted above or below projector, which modifies the signal sent to the projector. This is handy for when presenters step in front of the projected image. The device will create shadow over the presenter so he or she isn’t blinded by the projector’s light, meanwhile eliminating the distorted graphics that would normally be projected on the presenter’s body. iMatte calls it “selective inhibition technology”.

If you’re operating rear screen projector, the masking ability can be used to cast light on just the presenter’s body, not on the image behind, effectively producing spotlight.

Matte’s technology also allows presenters to use wireless remote mouse to drag, drop or underline words on the screen from anywhere in the room.

The increasing need for presenters to move around has also seen bigger demand for devices such as the remote mouse with built-in laser pointer. Lindsay Knowles, of Acme Office Supplies, refers to the ZEN long range remote mouse and laser pointer, which works from distance of 15 metres and is USB-enabled.

Boards get smart
While the plain, humble whiteboard will always have its place in presenting, much attention has focused on the new generation of electronic copyboards and interactive whiteboards in recent times, particularly in training and education circles.

A good example of new generation electronic copyboard is the M-10 Series from PLUS, which allows users to download any text or drawing from the board onto CompactFlash card or MemoryStick, and then email, save, edit, or project the information via multimedia projector. It downloads and/or prints on plain paper in four colours (it comes bundled with an inkjet printer), which is big improvement on the old black-and-white thermal paper models of the past. These devices are excellent for disseminating information.

Interactive whiteboards take collaborative technology to whole new level in classrooms and boardrooms, and their operation is far more user-friendly than previously experienced.

PolyVision’s Impulse LTX is one such system, which offers walk-up-and-write simplicity of use. On its 1.5 x 3.6m (5 x 12 foot) surface it can capture colour writing and projected images for sending to wireless printer, floppy disk, or built-in web server for distribution, editing or archiving.

Interactive whiteboards, or more specifically SMART boards, are being widely deployed into New Zealand schools, combining the power of computer with the simplicity of whiteboard. research programme will see four schools contribute to an international study on their classroom benefits.

“These boards function like large interactive computer screen allowing teachers to control any computer-based application at the front of the class,” says Rob Love, spokesman for distributing company Manzana. “They can control and write notes alongside or over anything displayed on the screen including videos. Lessons can be easily enhanced by content drawn from any networked computer, including the internet. The day’s work may be simply saved as web page to the school’s intranet or distributed to the class by email,” he says.

Such collaborative technology is expected to become more pervasive in the business community as well.

Just the beginning
We’ve only touched the surface of presentation technology here, as trip to your local AV dealer will confirm. Big screen technology has advanced considerably in the past 12 months, with LCD screens now giving plasma run for its money. There are devices (the eBeam and Mimio) that can convert standard whiteboards (or in fact any surface) into an electronic board – as well as devices called “digitisers”, which can project 3D objects up onto screen. All this array of technology can be confusing even to IT professionals, so the best advice is to visit reputable

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