In a move that could shake up the interactive whiteboard (IWB) market, two projector manufacturers have just released new products that can turn virtually any surface into an IWB.
The development means schools no longer have to buy separate hardware to enjoy the benefits of IWBs, whose interactive surface and ability to engage students have made them quite popular in classrooms.
“We would certainly consider this projector a game-changer,” said Claudine Wolas, project manager for Epson Electronics’ BrightLink 450Wi. “It’s not just the newest and latest in projectors, but in whiteboards as well.”
The BrightLink projector, introduced Jan. 13, can be mounted to any type of classroom wall (of course, the smoother the better—and old-fashioned, non-electronic whiteboards work the best). Because it’s an ultra short-throw projector, it can project a whiteboard surface image from a very short distance, meaning that as a teacher or student interacts with the surface, no shadowing exists.
The projector comes in XGA or WXGA models, and images can be anywhere from 59 inches to 96 inches diagonally with WXGA resolution, or from 55 inches to 85 inches with XGA resolution. (Click here for a full list of specs.)
“The entire projection area is the interactive area,” explained Wolas. “Before, educators would have to consider board size in terms of both pricing and classroom size, and costs would differ accordingly. With this projector, which has Epson 3LCD technology and 2,500 lumens, now educators can choose any type of size for their IWB, at no cost increase. It’s every size of whiteboard in just one projector.”
Educators and students can interact with the whiteboard surface using an infrared pen, and the software driving the system is platform-agnostic, meaning students and educators can work with virtually any Web 2.0 application, digital media file, or eTextbook.
Epson also is partnering with RM Education to provide RM’s Easiteach interactive lesson software; however, the companies have not yet decided whether RM’s content will be provided free of charge with the projector or will come at an additional cost.
As of press time, the BrightLink 450Wi was priced below $2,000 (including mount), and it will begin shipping this spring.
The day before Epson announced its new BrightLink projector, Boxlight introduced a similar product, the ProjectoWrite2/W—a short-throw LCD projector with XGA resolution that can project an IWB surface up to 80 inches diagonally. The ProjectoWrite2/W improves upon a technology that Boxlight first unveiled in 2007.
Epson and Boxlight aren’t the first companies to come out with technology that can turn any flat surface into an IWB. AVRover’s SVS200 with ONfinity CM2 Max is a portable AV system that can turn almost any surface into an IWB. And mimio’s Interactive System includes a small bar, stylus, mounting hardware, software, and USB interface that can attach to any dry-erase board or other surface to make it interactive.
But to use these other systems, schools will still need a digital projector—whereas Epson’s and Boxlight’s solutions are self-contained.
For less than $2,000—half the price of the average IWB—schools can have twice the number of IWB surfaces in their schools, simply by purchasing the BrightLink, Wolas said.
“Or they can use the money saved for other school costs,” she added.
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