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A growing trend in school AV solutions: Convergence

Interactive whiteboard makers are releasing projectors, and projector makers are releasing student response systems.

School audio-visual solutions seem to be converging, with major suppliers of AV products releasing their own versions of solutions offered by competitors in an effort to keep pace. Interactive whiteboard makers are releasing projectors, and projector makers are releasing student response systems—making nearly every supplier a one-stop shop for presentation tools.

For instance, ELMO USA now offers a student response system (SRS), which it demonstrated at the Florida Educational Technology Conference in January . Available in 24- or 32-unit bundles, ELMO’s SRS devices operate on the 2.4GHz radio frequency, with a range of about 50 feet. The software that drives the system works on Windows XP, Vista, or 7 computers.

In another example of this convergence, Promethean unveiled its own version of an interactive tabletop surface at FETC, the ActivTable. Like other companies’ interactive tables, it’s aimed at elementary and special-needs students in particular—but it includes several unique features as well.

At 46 inches, the high-definition LCD display allows up to six students to use it at any one time, with ample room for them to work together on tasks that require problem solving, critical thinking, and group decision making. The ActivTable includes web browsing and tools such as keyboards, math applications, and more, and it integrates with resources and content from Promethean and other vendors, including interactive whiteboards.

See the ActivTable in action:

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Promethean also has teamed up with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to offer new interactive math content designed for use with interactive whiteboards and handheld learning devices. “Go Math! Interactive Lessons,” aligned with the Common Core standards for grades K-6, include hands-on activities to help students explore math concepts more deeply, the companies said. The content follows the scope and sequence of HMH math textbooks, but it includes embedded assessments so teachers can use student response systems to gauge understanding before they move on.

SMART Technologies, meanwhile, introduced its first interactive projector, the LightRaise 40wi. It’s a pen-enabled, ultra-short-throw projector that can turn nearly any surface into an interactive learning space. The LightRaise includes SMART Notebook collaborative learning software for collaborative learning, and it comes with a rechargeable interactive pen, a pen holder, USB and VGA cables, and an easy-to-install wall mount. The projector can produce screen sizes up to 100 inches in a widescreen format.

Epson, one of the pioneers in interactive projection technology, introduced a mobile app that lets iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch users present to any networked Epson projector right from their mobile device. Called iProjection, the app allows users to display documents and photos to Epson projectors wirelessly from most iOS Apple devices running iOS 4.2 or later. It’s available free of charge in Apple’s App Store, and it also supports cloud-based file services such as Dropbox or various eMail applications, Epson says.

“As tablet and smart phone popularity continues to grow, both business users and teachers are in need of an intuitive and easy-to-use application that will allow them to leverage content from their Apple iOS devices and project it wirelessly,” said Brian Savarese, product manager for Epson America. “Whether presenting on the road or in the classroom, iProjection expands iOS devices’ wireless capabilities for collaboration with larger-than-life images on wireless Epson projectors.”

In other school AV news, Samsung demonstrated its SDP-860 Digital Presenter, which it says is ideal for presenting oversized objects or documents in crisp detail to large audiences with its jumbo, 16.5-inch by 11.7-inch shooting area. Its 1.39-megapixel design offers resolutions of SXGA, WXGA, XGA, or 720P, and it can be used as a webcam with Skype and lecture capture products. It allows for 48X combined zoom—6X optical and 8X digital—and includes SD memory for capturing and playing back still and video files. The device also folds down to 2.6 inches flat for easy carrying and storage.

Crestron discussed its “Cash for Trash” program, which allows the trade-in of old analog video distribution systems for a “significant credit” toward a brand-new Crestron DigitalMedia 8G+ system, which offers digital HD audio and video, the company says. “Upgrading to digital with Crestron DigitalMedia 8G+ is painless, quick, and easy,” said Sean Goldstein, vice president of marketing. “You can use existing wiring, so you don’t have to break open walls. You literally just swap out the hardware.Now, with our trade-in program, we’re even paying you to do it.” For more information, eMail

Roland Systems Group demonstrated the new VR-3 AV Mixer, a fully integrated audio mixer and video switcher for live video production and web streaming. The VR-3 weighs less than five pounds and can be powered by the power supply that’s provided or by external battery options such as Sanyo’s Pedal Juice. Its touch-screen interface provides an easy way to switch video sources, as well as an efficient way to access menus.

Cetacea Sound Corp. announced the release of next-generation software for its new Orbiter Pendant microphone. Orbiter Version 2.0 software adds new features and acoustic management tools, including built-in programmable equalization, range, and feedback reduction.

These features makes the Orbiter the first microphone ever developed that can be programmed to a teacher’s voice, the company says. Its high-definition radio and omni-directional microphone capabilities can pick up a teacher’s voice from three feet away, which makes it possible for use by teachers or others who have a very soft voice.

And, as more schools adopt tablet computers in the classroom, Florida-based MountMe has introduced a product line that offers tablet mounting solutions to help secure the devices.

With MountMe’s Freedom line, tablets are not only encased, but can be securely mounted to a wall, desk, or nearly any other surface imaginable, the company says—ensuring the safe handling of the devices. Schools in Florida’s Collier, Broward, and Glade counties have brought MountMe accessories into their classrooms to add extra protection to the tablets they are using as educational tools.

All Freedom mounts, which start at about $60, have the ability to pan 360 degrees and tilt 90 degrees, according to MountMe.

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