Tuesday, May 7, 2013

SMART LightRaise 60wi Interactive Projector Review by Tom Marcais

SMART just came out with a product in April that could revolutionize interactive white board technology. Up until this point, there were really just two kinds of interactive whiteboard technologies. The traditional interactive white board, where you press a finger or pen against an electronic board that registers your movements. And, the newer interactive projectors... that use proprietary pens that allow you to write on any surface (but without the pens, the interactivity doesn't work). Well... SMART came out with a product that combines the best of both worlds... the SMART LightRaise 60wi projector.

Lee Hartman, Inc. very generously loaned us one of these projectors for a week. It was pretty amazing! It will project on any flat surface (wall, white board, etc...). Once it's installed and calibrated, it operates just like a regular SMART board! You can touch the projection with your finger, and it's a big touch-screen! Or, use your finger to select any of the various SMART board tools through the tool bar. If you prefer pens... they have two rechargeable pens you can work with too.

There are a few downsides we ran into. They tell you that you need a flat surface to install this on, and they're not kidding. We thought we had a flat wall, but it really had some high/low points. Our Physical Plant guys came to the rescue and smoothed it out with some wall compound. We were then able to get a good enough reading to make the finger-touch capability work. Also, because it's using lasers to create a raised plane above the surface... you can't have any bezel greater than 5mm. Not a big deal with most white boards, but it probably does mean no map rails over that section of the board. It does take a bit of time to install, too. There's a bit of extensive calibration. SMART recommends allotting 2-hours for two people to install and calibrate one projector. The final thing we noticed is that you couldn't use all of the multi-touch features (like a fist for an eraser).

There are some huge advantages, though! First of all... size. This thing can project wide-screen up to 100 inches diagonally. That's a pretty big picture! Next, it has dual-touch capabilities... so you can have two people working with the projection at the same time. Another advantage is you only have one piece of equipment (one warranty, one point-of-failure) versus one for a SMART Board and another for a projector. If you've got this set up to project on a regular white board, it's also great for faculty that don't want to use SMART technology. They can just use it as a regular projector and/or just write normally on the white board with dry erase markers. Oh... and finally... the best has got to be price. You can get this projector for under $2000.00! Compared to installing an 800-series SMART board and a separate short-throw projector, we figure this will save us about $2000.00 per installation!

We're hoping to use this is some of the classroom renovations we're doing here at Sweet Briar College this summer. If you get a chance to check one of these projectors out in person, I'd really recommend it!

Friday, May 3, 2013

A New Endeavor

Have you ever sat back from your computer, looked at your "To Do" list, and thought, "I'm gonna start ______"? Fill in the ________ with your own project, a new skill, new diet, new sense of determination to do less of something.

At ASCUE we've decided to (finally) start a blog. While we're still working on the details of what we'll post about, or even who from our organization might do the posting, here's what we can guarantee: it will be about technology. It will help accomplish our mission "to provide opportunities for resource-sharing, networking, and collaboration within an environment that fosters creativity and innovation in the use of technology within higher education."

We've called this the "Innovators' Blog" with the hope that you, a co-innovator, will be inspired to innovate new, creative ways to integrate technology in your institutions. We may even ask you to guest blog for us!

Stay tuned for more details and keep innovating!