TCEA 2013: New school AV and presentation tools


Epson’s BrightLink 436Wi ultra short-throw interactive projector can be mounted on a wall or used on a table. Users can interact with projected images from a variety of sources using two pens at a time, without having to be connected to a PC.

A document camera that streams live, annotatable video to iPads; a mobile device charging cart that can identify various devices and deliver just the right charge to each; and a voice-activated system that automates the recording and sharing of class presentations:

These were among the new audio-visual and presentation tools unveiled at the 2013 Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in Austin this month.

Here’s a roundup of some of the latest school AV and presentation technologies announced at TCEA 2013.

AVer announced three new products at TCEA: a document camera that streams live, annotatable video to iPads; a sub-$1,000 professional video conferencing system that’s H.323 compliant; and an iPad cart that AVer claims is the first in the industry to charge and sync 32 iPads for under $2,000.

At $599, the AVer TabCam is completely wireless. A free TabCam app in the Apple App Store lets you stream and record live video through an iPad. The app receives and displays the live video stream, allowing for broadcasting to a projector or monitor. The app also includes annotation and manipulation tools that let users interact with the video or with other digital content. The camera itself features a 16x zoom and a 45-foot wireless range.

The AVer EVC100 is an all-inclusive, plug-and-play video conferencing endpoint that includes a camera, codec, and microphone. Because it’s H.323 compliant, it connects with almost any content provider and video conferencing system. Its 88-degree field of view is the widest in the industry, AVer says, and the device also comes with a three-year warranty.

Priced under $2,000, the AVer TabSync charges and stores up to 32 iPads in a lockable, rugged cart on wheels. It ships fully assembled, AVer says.

Bretford debuted a new line of Library 2.0 furniture, designed with today’s media centers in mind. As with the company’s EDU 2.0 line of furniture, the chairs and tables feature power supplies and USB outlets for plugging in mobile computing devices. The new Library 2.0 line also includes a tech-enabled “teaming table” built specifically for collaboration; it’s a height-adjustable mobile table with two power and two USB outlets and a stanchion for mounting a screen.

Bretford also introduced a product designed for storing and charging a wide array of mobile devices. Using “detect supply charge” technology, the lockable MDM Tray can identify what kinds of devices are connected and deliver just the right charge to each device, Bretford says—so the devices don’t get “fried.” The MDM Tray holds up to 10 devices and is great for “bring your own device” initiatives, the company says.

Califone demonstrated a new line of “Listening First” headsets. The new headsets are an extension of the company’s Listening First line of headphones and now feature a built-in microphone for recording speech. Made with rugged ABS plastic, the headsets are available in three color choices (blue, red, and yellow) or three animal themes (bear, panda, or tiger). These headsets, along with several other models, come with the option of three plugs: dual 3.5 mm, USB, or the “To Go” plug, which makes the headsets compatible with tablets, smart phones, and other mobile devices.

Epson demonstrated a number of new products at TCEA, including its first portable interactive projector for schools; an ultra-bright projector for use in naturally bright classrooms; and options for both active and passive 3D viewing of images.

Listed at $1,250, Epson’s BrightLink 436Wi ultra short-throw interactive projector can be either mounted on a wall or used on a table. Users can interact with projected images from a variety of sources—including tablets, document cameras, Blu-ray players, and VCRs—using two pens at a time, without having to be connected to a PC. The 3,000-lumen projector can deliver an image up to 113 inches diagonally from only three feet away.

Available for $1,199, Epson’s PowerLite 935W delivers ultra-bright images with 3,700 lumens of both color and white-light brightness, for classrooms with lots of natural lighting. Epson also showed two 3D projectors designed specifically for classrooms: the PowerLite W16, based on active 3D technology, and the W16SK, designed with passive 3D technology.

The PowerLite W16, which requires active-shutter radio frequency glasses, sells for $849. The $1,899 PowerLite W16SK is a dual-projection system consisting of two stacked projectors with polarizing lenses, and students can view 3D images with inexpensive glasses priced at only $3 a pair and sold as a box of five pairs. Both systems use energy-efficient lamps that reportedly can last up to 5,000 hours in economy mode, and schools that are part of Epson’s Brighter Futures program can buy replacement lamps at a special discounted rate of $99, Epson says.

FrontRow demonstrated Juno, a new voice-activated system that automates the recording and sharing of lessons and presentations—making it very easy to do this, FrontRow says, even for teachers who are not tech savvy. The system consists of a one-touch teacher microphone; an installation-free digital line array speaker tower that is expandable with up to six additional speakers; desktop software; and up to four simultaneous student microphones.

“The educational potential of lesson capture has excited schools for a number of years, and there are dozens of programs out there that let you record a file,” says Jeff Shaw, product manager for FrontRow, “but not many schools can actually do it, because it’s just not easy. … Even if [they] have the technical skill, very few teachers really have the time.”

Juno’s Echo voice-activated feature lets teachers simply say “begin” to record their voice, as well as student voices, multimedia audio, and any content projected on the computer screen. The system then automatically titles this content with the correct subject based on the teacher’s schedule, and prepares it for uploading to websites for sharing. Videos can be any length and are saved in the device-agnostic MP4 format, viewable on Windows or Mac computers, smart phones, and other devices.

“Now [educators] can record an important concept on a whim, from anywhere in the classroom, without having to rush back to [their] computer,” says Shaw. “It’s shockingly easy now to flip your classroom, improve homework results, and help absent students catch up.”

At TCEA, FrontRow also announced a new lesson capture contest, “How do you Juno?,” that lets schools try Juno free of charge until June 1. Applicants can request a Juno system to participate in the contest until April 15. To enter, they must submit an example of a video lesson or presentation recorded with the system by May 1, and the winners will be announced on May 15. There will be three grand-prize winners and five runner-up prizes, totaling more than $17,000 in value.

Mimio announced several new products at TCEA, including its first projector series (called simply the Mimio Projector), which is available in three models: an interactive version that works with a single pen; another interactive version that works with two pens simultaneously for multi-user input; and a regular projector that can be upgraded to an interactive version through a simple, snap-in device—giving schools an easy path for upgrading later if they choose.

Mimio also unveiled a new version of its Mimio Studio software, which adds support for multiple users, as well as touch and gesture inputs (such as zooming, rotating, and swiping)—and the company said its software is now platform agnostic, meaning schools can use it with interactive whiteboards from any manufacturer.

What’s more, Mimio introduced the next generation of its Mimio Pad interactive slate, featuring a pen that doesn’t require batteries, as well as a free iPad app called Mimio Mobile, which gives iPad users the same functionality as users of the Mimio Pad. The company’s goal is to give schools an easy way to create dynamic, interactive classrooms—no matter what ed-tech devices or infrastructure they might have, Mimio said. The Mimio Mobile app will be available for downloading from Apple’s App Store on Feb. 28.

Mitsubishi announced a new line of lamp-free portable projectors that can save schools time and money over the life of the machines. Mitsubishi’s LaserVue projectors create brilliant images with accurate colors using a technologically advanced light engine that’s unlike any other lamp-free projectors on the market, the company says.

To produce the red-green-blue lighting elements required to form all display colors, Mitsubishi LaserVue projectors use one pure red LED and up to 34 pure blue laser diodes of varying strengths and wavelengths, and a solid-colored phosphor wheel that emits green light. This produces rich and accurate colors with a light source that lasts up to 20,000 hours in standard mode, Mitsubishi says.

Mitsubishi’s new line of LaserVue projectors consists of three portable models: the NW31U-EST WXGA (1,280 x 800 resolution) extreme short-throw model will be the first to become available in April, followed shortly by two standard-throw models: the NW30U WXGA and the NF32U full high-definition, 1080p resolution projector. They feature 2,500 lumens, 3,000 lumens, and 3,000 lumens, respectively.

Promethean announced a new partnership with Microsoft, in which the two companies will develop Windows 8 and Windows RT applications for real-time assessment and collaboration in the classroom.

For instance, Promethean and Microsoft are developing apps for collaborative, multi-touch use of Promethean’s ActivTable, such as an app already under development that sets up a real-time marketplace where students run a business and learn basic principles of economics, business development, sales, and marketing. The application uses the Windows 8 platform, Promethean’s interactive delivery devices (ActivBoard and ActivTable), Microsoft Surface, and other tablets. Students manage their businesses on any device, learning how the decisions they make affect costs and profits in real time.

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