New PolyVision ‘Thunder’ boosts whiteboard interactivity

(From InfoComm 2005)

PolyVision Corp. previewed a new patent-pending technology (code-named “Thunder”) that promises to take education and collaboration across distances to a whole new level of interactivity.

Thunder aims to replace one-dimensional tools, such as a traditional flip chart or videoconference, with an environment in which local and remote users can collaborate by sharing, annotating, saving, recalling, displaying, and distributing information live over the internet. Marketing manager Mark Cummings compared Thunder to online conferencing software such as WebEx or NetMeeting–but with the added ability to annotate slides and documents online. “It’s like a virtual whiteboard environment,” he said.

The technology is rather high-end–an entire system will cost schools about $50,000, Cummings said–but it could be useful for research institutions, such as colleges and universities, as well as virtual K-12 schools. The product is expected to be available starting this fall.

PolyVision also introduced a new line of interactive whiteboards at InfoComm that it says are the first and only “calibration-free” boards in the industry.

Most other interactive whiteboards must be re-calibrated when either the projector or the screen are jostled or move slightly during use. Re-calibration involves touching each corner of the projected image to align it with the projector. But a majority of respondents to a recent survey said calibration is the most frustrating issue they face when using interactive whiteboards–and nearly half said their boards need re-calibrating between one and six times per day, PolyVision said.

This user research inspired the company to create a line of calibration-free boards, called Lightning. The devices use photonic array technology, or sensors embedded in the boards that can read light, to determine the boundaries of the projected image. The technology works in just a few seconds at the push of a button, eliminating frustration and allowing users to focus on their audience and not the technology, Cummings said.

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