3. New Type of Videoconferencing by TANDBERG
TANDBERG has a new product line the company is calling "personal video communications." This IP-based line brings videoconferencing into the personal workspace and includes three products: a personal unit with an 8.4-inch high resolution screen, a 17-inch widescreen system intended to replace the computer monitor, and a mobile system.
TANDBERG envisions a videoconference system in every workspace, even the home office, and designed this line accordingly. The 8.4-inch TANDBERG 150 is an IP-based display panel that integrates voice and video up to 512kbps. There are optional handsets and headsets.
The TANDBERG 1500 MXP is a 17-inch LCD capable of 2 Mbps video calls and CD-quality stereo audio. This wireless-capable unit lets users share documents and connect to multiple sites.
The TANDBERG 2000MXP for small meeting rooms and offices has a 23-inch screen on a mobile stand.
The 1500 MXP and 2000 MXP will support multi-protocol environments that include H.323, SIP and SCCP. TANDBERG says it will work with Cisco Systems to further extend the functionality of the 150. All of the personal products are SIP-ready and in early 2005 TANDBERG plans to make SIP available.
Applications: individual offices, small meeting rooms, home offices.
4. Sharp Ships New Professional Projectors
Sharp has new Notevision series DLP projectors.
The new mid-range projector series allows users to select the brightness level, with settings ranging from 3000 (XG-MB70X) to 2500 (PG-MB60X) ANSI lumens. Sharp also has Low Power Mode, which conserves lamp life, ideal for rooms with minimal lighting or without windows. Low Power Mode extends the lamp life to 3,000 hours, and significantly reduces fan noise and power consumption for quiet, economical projector operation.
Sharp's Display Manager Software allows one or more LAN-enabled projectors to be connected to a PC for remote control and diagnostics, such as locating and self-diagnosing system errors. It can instantly send an alert to the control PC, forward an error message to a predetermined e-mail list, expedite necessary maintenance and minimize downtime. A built-in RJ-45 LAN connection in the XG-MB70X allows for remote control, diagnostics and asset management over a Local Area Network, including the ability to monitor lamp life and anticipate bulb replacement. The PG-MB60X has optional LAN connectivity through the AN-LS1 accessory. The XG-MB70X also has a built-in Web server that allows direct control and access without needing special software.
Applications: corporate meeting rooms.
5. Polycom Introduces SoundStation2
Polycom says its new SoundStation2 delivers twice the loudness and 50 percent better microphone pickup than its original popular SoundStation conference table audio conference system, or speaker phone.
The newest edition, the SoundStation2, provides the ability to talk up to ten feet away in a normal voice and still be heard clearly, and adds new features including a backlit LCD display, international Caller-ID, an address book for speed dialing and a cell phone connector.
Applications: conference rooms, offices.
6. SMART Announces Milestone in Educational Resources
SMART Technologies announced recently that its library of digital resources for teachers has grown to more than 7,500 files, including lesson activities, interactive resources, clip-art, background templates and more tools for use with the company's products. The EDCompass Website is FREE of charge for SMART users and provides teacher-evaluated and sometimes, contributed, information.
7. Panasonic Ships SXGA 3-Chip DLP Projector
Panasonic has a high-power new projector, the 3-chip DLP PT-D7700U projector specified at 1400 x 1050 SXGA resolution, 7,000 lumens and 4000:1 contrast ratio. Panasonic designed the PT-D7700U with dust proof, sealed, fluid-cooled optics for 24/7 operations.
Also in this projector is a new Panasonic technology called Dynamic Iris, which constantly monitors the amount of light output and adjusts the intensity of the light source to match it. Dynamic Iris integrates with Dynamic Gamma correction to increase highlights for blacker blacks while retaining brightness, according to the company.
The PT-D7700U has Panasonic's BriteOptic dual-lamp system that equals the power and reliability of two high-intensity 300W UHM lamps through a high-precision prism, says Panasonic, and the lamp auto-changer alternates lamp operation for 24/7 use without interruption.
The projector offers built-in multi-screen color matching and edge blending for displaying uniform, natural-looking, full-motion images over a wide span without any discernible lines between overlapping blended images. An outstanding benefit of edge blending is that it increases the image's horizontal resolution while maintaining the maximum vertical resolution. Up to 100 projectors (10 x 10) can be edge-blended at one time using the projector's built-in processor.
Applications: command and control, rental, large venue, premium home theater.
8. Wow Your Hotel Guests With 71-Inch Plasma TV
LG Electronics announced a 71-inch plasma monitor for in-room entertainment in hotels. The new TV is specified at 1920 x 1080p resolution and uses LG's XD Engine. The XD Engine is LG's image processing and optimization technology, which is also used in the company's new 42- and 50-inch PY10 plasmas, and all of its LCD DLP HDTVs.
Applications: Hotel rooms, but there is no reason they can't go in corporate or entertainment lobbies, or anywhere a giant TV is applicable.
9. A Digital Signage System That Lets You Use Your Own Server
Tech Electronics has altered its AxisTV system so that you can use the company's content management and creation software on your own server or the server of your preference. The company also upgraded AxisTV to let you add more attributes to digital signage text, such as bold, italics, etc., as well as single-click theme packs for interesting backgrounds.
AxisTV is also still available with the AxisTV server.
Applications: digital signage such as lobby and sales office displays, employee signage, retail signage and point of sale.
10. Small Wonders - Part 2
Last time out, we made the case that maximizing your presentation effectiveness can sometimes mean adding "little things" that might be absent from your AV inventory. We talked about the helpfulness of various types of microphones, laser pointers, remotes, walkie-talkies, whiteboards and Teleprompters.
Here's a look at some additional equipment and systems that might afford new opportunities and freedom for your company or organization to communicate - without breaking the bank.
Reach Out and Touch
Take a plasma panel or LCD monitor and turn it into an interactive display with a touch panel overlay. There is probably an overlay to suit the equipment you may already have, regardless of size or manufacturer.
Most overlays fasten easily and allow users (customers, employees, visitors) to navigate Web information, control computer applications, or leave feedback - with either their fingertips or the use of a stylus (electronic pen). Overlays usually allow the native brightness of the screen to shine through, while reducing glare and protecting the actual surface
Businesses and industries commonly using touchscreens include retail (notably automobile showrooms), hospitality and travel, governmental departments and agencies, and conference facilities. Applications might include seeking information on products and appliances, calculators for foreign exchange, mortgages or loans, interactive advertising, or "walking through" real estate properties for sale.
While there are several different technologies that are used to achieve touchscreen interface, the benefits are always the same:
1) Speed - No mouse, keyboard or trackball required
2) Expertise - Touching is instinctive; users are instantly comfortable
3) Reduced costs - Simplifies procedures and frees employees for more complex tasks
4) Accuracy - Defined menus allow fail-safe sequences to convey information and capture inquiry records
Touchscreen overlays are typically thin, durable, do not compromise picture clarity and can be used in a wide range of ambient light levels. Locations might include lobbies, boardrooms, trade show booths or shopping malls.
In Your Face
Forget about the grainy, black-and-white surveillance camera videotapes you've seen on every police drama TV show. Today's "tiny" cameras have grown up into quality tools that can be adapted to a wide range of purposes. While you won't get the beauty of HDTV, you will get color, full-pan and tilt and zoom capability. And it's all programmable, which means you don't have to scrounge for an AV technician to follow your every move around the stage or dais.
Originally developed for home and business security purposes, the new generation of "surveillance" cameras (wired or wireless) can be mounted in a conference room or placed on a tripod in an auditorium to record or broadcast the action. Some have the ability to see objects clearly up to half a mile away.
Depending on the particular model, they will send a "live feed" to your PC, your VCR, or TV set. The images can also be sent over the Internet in real time. They can be programmed in a variety of ways, to simply "detect" motion, to "recognize" a particular face and stay on it, or to remain within a pre-determined "frame field."
The uses for these lightweight, easy-to-operate cameras are limited only by your imagination. Schools use them for closed-circuit news programs produced and staffed by student reporters and "anchor-kids," while municipalities have installed them for ease of communication to the public in the event of disaster. Police, mayors and fire chiefs can remain at their posts, while providing up-to-the-minute information to local television and radio outlets.
Imagine being able to follow what's happening in the sales meeting upstairs while at your desk on a conference call with the boss in Europe. Consider how you could automatically tape all your live presentations for the past quarter and edit them into a single, perfect "product" for distribution on tape, CD or DVD. It's the next best thing to being in two places at once.
Sometimes a Clicker is More Than a Clicker
Ask the audience. You can find out through hand-held keypads if they are listening, learning, engaged, focused. Cutting-edge, interactive audience response technology is used to heighten participation and interest in classrooms, meetings, town halls and market research. You can control your objectives and see results instantly, without taking time to draw out shy audience members, or manage the difficult ones.
The technology of infrared or radio frequency wireless keypads is available at various levels of complexity. Presenters and facilitators can travel with their own system, which includes a base station/receiver, often small, light and portable. These systems can also be easily rented for a situation or event that would be enhanced by its use.
Audience response systems employ software that send immediate "voting" or "polling" results to your computer, and confirms to the user that his vote has been received. Responses can be requested in different ways, such as a scale of 0-10, True/False, Yes/No or multiple choice answers. Different systems are designed for both small and large (up to 1500) groups, and keypad reliability at distances up to 175 feet is well-proven.
Mutli-media, team competition and multi-site capabilities are available. All content can be mapped out in advance, or you can author your own questions on the spot. The benefits and applications of audience response systems cross over all learning disciplines and environments. Meeting productivity is increased, participants are more likely to "own" group decisions and the anonymity of the keypad encourages more honest and accurate responses.
The cost-effective and convenient technology reviewed in this article and in "Small Wonders - Part 1" was offered to show that a minimal investment can pay off big-time. Your communication skills and your bottom line could skyrocket with one or more of these "stocking stuffer" suggestions. If something caught your eye or stimulated your interest, drop in or give us a call for the professional direction and hardware recommendation that's right for you.
11. Visualize This
In some instances, they look like an unfinished science fair project. In other instances they remain discreetly overhead, performing their job virtually unnoticed. Depending on the model and features, price tags can range from $1,000 to ten times that much.
But if you've not paid attention lately, the presentation tool known by its functional name - document camera - has evolved into a far more versatile, usable, and in many cases, indispensable piece of equipment. Today, manufacturers are moving away from the admittedly dull terminology of "document camera" and using words such as "visualizer," "visual presenter" and "visual copy stand" to identify these highly flexible educational and communication aids.
Traditionally, document cameras have been used in presentations to show documents, photographs, slides and transparencies, 3-D objects, x-rays, and blueprints - items that didn't lend themselves neatly to other media or means of display to an on-site or remote audience.
Their ability to show microscopic, intricate details, various angles on a product or tool, combined with auto-focusing and built-in microphones have made them a staple for military, medical, and engineering applications. Output is typically routed through the same large-screen monitor or projector that would accept your PowerPoint presentation. Many have extensive zoom capability and offer both front and back-lighting, so that 35mm slides can be employed.
But innovation and user-demands have further expanded what many of these devices can now do, whether as part of a fixed installation or in light-weight, portable configurations.
The most up-to-date visualizers have a full complement of AV inputs and outputs so that they can serve as the true control center of a presentation, beyond their utility as a "high-end" overhead projector. Clever presenters are known to employ the CCD camera (swiveling video head) in a variety of ways: to highlight sections or portions of a large chart or artist's rendition of a building displayed on an easel; to put a close-up of themselves on the screen when other images aren't being projected; to show an audience member posing a question during a Q&A.
Increasingly used in videoconferencing, visualizers not only transmit live images, but can also capture them, recording them on a VCR, and/or converting them into common digital file formats such as JPEG or TIFF for use in other presentations or print materials. The unit's networking capability may also be important. Models are available that can be assigned an IP address, allowing an individual or audience located anywhere to access an SXGA resolution (1280x1024 pixels) online. With remote control and an Internet, LAN or WAN connection, viewers can zoom in, focus on, tilt around, and cast light on objects that are an ocean or continent away.
How you use a visualizer will determine the level of sophistication, features and optical quality you need, and you can likely find a place on the price range spectrum that works for you.
For example, compact visualizers priced at less than $2,000 might offer twin lamps for uniform light, auto-white balance for clarity on plain paper, a color-corrected light box for slides and transparencies, and an XGA (1024x768 pixel) output. Memory features might freeze or store a still image temporarily for later display on a projector or monitor. Units often fold down to a convenient size (less than 24-inches square or rectangular) for ease of travel.
In the $3,500-4,000 range, you can expect visualizers with SXGA resolution, USB digital interface for high speed transfer of images, and a 10 times (or even much higher) power zoom. Images can also be enlarged through magnification. Lighting may be both from above and below, and the "shooting" area should allow for a minimum of 14" x 11" documents with clear transmission of even 8-point type. You'll likely have switchable NTSC/PAL compatible video outputs and features such as image rotation, aperture selection, pause mode and stereo audio output. If live action is an important aspect of your presentation, look for a minimum of 7.5 frames per second for non-strobing image transmission. Some visualizers even double that rate, giving a remarkably smooth performance.
At the high end, around the $9,000 price point, you can have a free-standing or ceiling-mounted unit capable of delivering great color and high resolution at 20 frames and 16 million pixels processed per second - for smoothness of motion and outstanding picture quality. Expect a synchronized lightfield, allowing the illuminated part of the working surface to remain identical to the pick-up area of the camera - even when zooming in and out. This allows easy positioning of objects, and no need to look at the monitor. If you deal with larger 3-dimensional objects, be concerned with depth of focus to keep them displayed sharply from top to bottom, a characteristic more likely addressed in top-of-the-line models.
Talk to us regarding your thoughts and potential uses for a visualizer. The marketplace is rich with a variety of products that can suit your particular needs - from IP-addressable, to memory-intensive, to fold-up ease, to lighting and lens components that range from acceptable to extraordinary. This is truly an equipment arena where professional consultation can reduce the time involved to create a short list of devices that can magnify your communication impact.