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Twenty intriguing school AV products

Canon’s new EVERCAM XU-81 is a robotic, high-definition pan-tilt-zoom camera that is encased in a sturdy, weatherproof housing for indoor or outdoor use.

We recently published a report on three key developments in school AV technology, based on the news to come out of InfoComm 2013, the world’s largest audio-visual technology trade show.

Now, here are 20 more intriguing school AV products that we saw at InfoComm and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio last month—including a portable audio system that can facilitate small-group instruction and an easy solution for “flipping” your classroom using any iOS device.

(Products are listed in alphabetical order by company name.)

Barix Simple Paging Solution

The Barix Simple Paging Solution is a serverless, scalable, self-configuring system that delivers public address announcements in specific zones or school-wide over a building’s existing IP network.

The system consists of plug-and-play end points controlled by a software program that lets users set up different zones of coverage. Using the system is as easy as choosing a zone, pushing a button—and then talking.

Because you don’t need a dedicated server to run the solution, it’s much less expensive than other IP paging systems that require such a server, Barix says. And if your school has a Wi-Fi network, Barix offers an app that lets teachers and administrators use an iPhone or iPad to make announcements; all you need to make this work is a $500 transmitter device, according to the company.

(Next page: a mobile charging station ideal for BYOD programs; a device that turns any tablet into a document camera or interactive whiteboard)Belkin Store and Charge Station

Belkin has introduced a mobile device charging station that is ideal for school-based “bring your own device” programs.

The new Store and Charge Station is able to accommodate up 10 devices at once. Its extra-wide storage slots can support a wide variety of mobile devices, in or out of their protective cases—including iPads, Chromebooks, and even notebook computers up to 13 inches. What’s more, its industrial-strength surge protector allows for different types of devices to repower with their own chargers—and Belkin offers a unique $15,000 insurance policy against “fried” devices.

The Belkin Store and Charge Station’s small footprint lets you stack three stations on a standard AV cart, and its open setup supports wireless syncing. It’s available for a suggested retail price of $199.

Belkin Tablet Stage

At $199, the Belkin Tablet Stage is an affordable solution that turns any tablet computer into an interactive whiteboard or document camera.

An adjustable mount holds your tablet securely above a staging area, where the tablet’s camera can focus on a textbook, worksheet, photo, or any other subject for class discussion. By connecting a projector, TV, or monitor to the tablet, you can share images and video with students in real time. The stage is illuminated by an adjustable LED light, and an integrated cable management system keeps cords conveniently out of the way.

The mount can be adjusted up to 11 inches wide, so it can accommodate 7-inch or 10-inch tablets easily. It can be rotated to landscape (podium) mode; titled horizontally so you can use your tablet as a document camera; or rotated to vertical mode so you can record a class lecture. A Tablet Stage app lets you annotate over live video.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio

Blackmagic Design’s ATEM Television Studio is a live production switcher that combines a professional-grade switcher with a broadcast-quality H.264 encoder, so schools can perform live video production and real-time broadcast encoding for the internet—all in one product, for just $995.

It’s not a new product, but at InfoComm the company announced that ATEM Television Studio was named Live Design Magazine’s 2012-13 Video Switcher Product of the Year in the “Projection” category.

ATEM Television Studio includes six inputs with both broadcast SDI and consumer HDMI inputs for cameras and computers, as well as two program SDI/HD SDI outputs and one program HDMI output. It includes full audio mixing capability, upstream chroma keyer, auto resync on all inputs, downstream keyers, full transitions, fade to black, Multi View monitoring, USB 2 for capture of H.264 full HD files, and an Ethernet connection—all in a 2.5-inch-thick, one-rack unit size for easy portability.

ATEM Television Studio comes with a software-based control panel for Mac OS X or Windows, and it can be connected to an optional ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel for hardware-based control.

(Next page: an integrated news automation system for schools; a wireless Bluetooth speaker designed for classrooms)

EZNews bundle

Broadcast Pix has announced a partnership with Automated Data Systems to offer an integrated news automation system designed for schools that want a professional-grade, yet affordable, system for complete news production.

Priced under $15,000, the bundle includes Broadcast Pix’s Flint live video production and streaming system, EZNews LT news production software from Automated Data Systems, and exclusive interface software that enables EZNews titles to flow automatically into the Flint’s built-in computer graphics. The system can be run by a small crew or even a single person.

The package is suitable “for colleges … or any organization that wants the polished look and operation of a live news show without the big price tag,” said Steve Ellis, Broadcast Pix CEO, in a press release.

Flint includes a production switcher, clip server, customizable multi-view interface, robotic camera control, and a choice of control surfaces. It can incorporate content from cloud-based sources—such as Twitter, Skype, RSS feeds, and Dropbox—and supports up to six cameras.

EZNews LT is available in single user, three-user, and six-user configurations, and it’s also sold separately, without Broadcast Pix’s switcher.

Califone PA-BT30 wireless speaker

Califone, a maker of classroom audio products, has introduced its first portable speaker using Bluetooth wireless technology, the PA-BT30.

Designed with presenters and teachers in mind, this 30-watt speaker is quick and easy to set up and can fill a whole 2,500-square-foot room with sound. It features wireless connectivity to any Bluetooth-enabled mobile device or computer, including iPhones, iPads, and Android-based phones and tablets. It also includes a USB charge port and auxiliary line input to allow for expanded device compatibility.

Educators can use the $199 speaker to stream songs from Pandora, stream podcasts from iTunes U, or enhance the audio from a Skype chat, Facetime session, or virtual field trip, Califone says.

Canon EVERCAM XU-81 remote-controlled camera

Canon’s new EVERCAM XU-81 is a robotic, high-definition pan-tilt-zoom camera that is encased in a sturdy, weatherproof housing for indoor or outdoor use.

Equipped with a 20x Genuine Canon zoom lens (with additional 12x digital zoom), 2.1-megapixel CMOS imaging sensor, and an HD-SDI output, the camera can be controlled remotely and has applications ranging from sporting events, to security, to lecture halls or performances.

The EVERCAM XU-81 weighs 14.5 pounds and includes a built-in handle for convenient portability. It can be mounted upright or in an inverted ceiling mount. In either position, the picture image will automatically flip when the tilt angle reaches 90 degrees. The camera will be available in September for an estimated retail price of $11,000.

(Next page: a 2-megapixel document camera for $139; a way to make any existing projector interactive for just $99; and a new line of AV switching and control systems for schools)

eInstruction ShareView document cameras

At ISTE, eInstruction previewed two ultra-portable document cameras that seem like great values.

The ShareView 2, which will be available in July, features a 2-megapixel camera, 12x digital zoom, a USB connection, a microphone, and built-in LED lighting—all for $139. When folded up, it also operates as a web camera. The ShareView 5, which will be released this fall, features a 5-megapixel camera, an auto-focus lens, and adjustable height and zoom. It will sell for $239.

Both cameras come with eInstruction’s WorkSpace software, which allows users to control, annotate, and interact with instructional materials in multiple formats from many sources. The software includes access more than 4,000 images and other teaching resources, eInstruction says—minimizing the need to look elsewhere for content.

Epson BrightLink Solo

Epson’s BrightLink line of short-throw interactive projectors has proven to be popular with schools, and Epson now sells a product called the BrightLink Solo that, for $99, can add interactivity to any brand of pre-installed projector in a school.

“Using interactive technologies in the classroom provides educators and students with engaging, hands-on teaching and learning opportunities,” said Sara Kim, associate product manager of K-12 Education Marketing for Epson America, in a press release. “Now, for less than $100, schools and districts can outfit their classrooms with interactivity and further enhance their existing projector technologies in an extremely cost-effective way.”

To maximize classroom space, the BrightLink Solo Interactive Module can be used on any existing dry-erase board, wall, or other smooth, light-colored, hard surface. It provides up to 96 inches diagonally (WXGA) or 102 inches diagonally (XGA) of useable interactive area. The module comes with two interactive pens, wall mount hardware for easy installation, and TeamBoard Draw annotation software to create, capture, and share lessons.

Extron PoleVault Digital Classroom AV Systems

Extron Electronics’ new line of PoleVault Digital Classroom AV Systems are complete, easy-to-use AV switching and control systems that seamlessly integrate digital and analog video sources.

Each system uses economical twisted pair cable for transmitting signals and includes network connectivity for web-based management, monitoring, and control of AV resources. These standard, four-input systems include all the necessary audio and video switching, audio amplification, system control, source connectivity, speakers, mounting hardware, and cabling for a complete classroom AV solution, Extron says; all that remains is to add the display device and video sources.

(Next page: a portable audio system that can facilitate small-group instruction; high-definition displays with multi-user collaboration)

Interphase penveu

Interphase Corp. debuted the penveu at ISTE, an interactive device that makes installed projectors and large-screen displays interactive, either by touching the display or from up to 40 feet away.

Highly portable and very easy to use, the penveu requires no special software or driver installation, and it doesn’t need calibration, Interphase says. It’s ready to use right out of the box, for what the company says is “a fraction of the cost of current market alternatives.”

Lightspeed FLEXCAT

Lightspeed Technologies unveiled a portable audio system, called FLEXCAT, that can facilitate instruction in small group settings. The system consists of a teacher headset with microphone, and tabletop speakers for student groups placed throughout the classroom.

The system allows the instructor to transmit her voice to all speakers, or only to specific ones—so she can direct her comments to certain students without disturbing the whole class. A listening component enables the instructor to hear what students are saying during their group work, so she can facilitate discussion or assess the students’ interaction from anywhere in the room.

Panasonic Interactive Displays

Panasonic has introduced a new family of Panasonic Interactive Displays, which combine whiteboard-style collaborative functions with Panasonic’s high-definition displays to enhance group learning.

Available in 50-inch, 65-inch, 85-inch, and 103-inch models, the displays include integrated pen-touch capabilities via an Electronic Pen System, and up to four pens can be used simultaneously for actions such as written annotation, drawing, and moving items independently around the screen. What’s more, the system has a remote pointer function that allows users to point, draw, and annotate from up to 16 feet away.

Because the technology is based on fixed location pixels, the device requires no calibration; in addition, the pen can be used as a mouse without extra software or driver.

(Next page: a powerful media management system adds support for mobile devices; an affordable high-definition AV mixer)

Panopto 4.4 video platform

Panopto combines software-based lecture capture and screen recording with a powerful media management system that can transcribe video and make it searchable. The latest version of its software, Panopto 4.4, adds a native iPad app and software-based video switching.

With Panopto’s new iPad app, users can view presentations and videos through an interactive, touch-friendly interface; search inside videos to fast-forward to any word mentioned during a recording; and record videos and upload them automatically into Panopto’s video content management system—all from their iPad. What’s more, the app brings these capabilities to the iPhone as well, automatically adapting to the iPhone’s form factor. An Android version is expected by the end of the year, Panopto said.

Panopto 4.4 also introduces new functionality to its web-based video editor that is typically only found in high-end video recording and switching appliances. The new functionality enables post-production switching between multiple video sources, the company says—giving schools professional video post-production and playback capabilities at a fraction of the cost.

Panopto has always been a software-based video capture solution that works on both Macs and PCs, but with the latest version of its software, the company for the first time has introduced a remotely controlled recording device as well. This plug-and-play, Power-over-Ethernet appliance, created through a partnership with Epiphan Systems, can record and combine an SD video camera input, an audio input, and an HD input from a VGA, DVI, HDMI display, or camera output. It automatically uploads video recordings to Panopto’s content management system, and users can schedule recordings through Panopto’s software interface. The device sells for around $2,000.

Roland VR-50HD audio-visual mixer

Roland Systems Group has announced a new portable, live HD video production solution, the Roland VR-50HD, an AV mixer with output for HD video streaming and recording.

The Roland VR-50HD includes a 12-channel digital audio mixer; a 12-input, four-channel video switcher; multi-viewer touch screen control; and USB video/audio streaming in a stand-alone device controllable by a single operator. It adds HD and multi-format capability to the company’s all-in-one VR Series of AV mixers, which includes the Roland VR-5 and VR-3.

The VR-50HD will be available in October for a suggested price of around $7,500. Roland also announced that it has dropped the price of its VR-5 AV mixer from $5,000 to about $3,500.

SMART Board E70 interactive flat panel

Designed specifically for education, SMART Technologies’ SMART Board E70 interactive flat-panel display is a high-definition, shadow-free, 70-inch LED display featuring low-friction coated glass that enables fingers to glide smoothly over the surface, facilitating a natural touch experience. The display also “virtually eliminates” glare and provides an optimal view from any angle in the classroom, SMART says.

The multi-touch SMART Board E70 features freestyle multi-user interaction anywhere on the display, enabling students to collaborate without limitations. The display also includes the company’s SMART Notebook collaborative learning software, as well as access to the SMART Exchange online community, where the community’s more than 1 million members can connect, share, and download high-quality digital resources for instruction.

(Next page: furniture that promotes active learning; an easy solution for “flipping” your classroom using any iOS device)

Steelcase ‘active learning’ solutions

At ISTE, furniture designer Steelcase demonstrated a range of innovative products designed to make learning more active and engaging.

For instance, the company’s Node chair is mobile and flexible, with casters that allow for quick, easy transitions from one teaching mode to the next. With Node, a classroom can transition from lecture mode to team mode and back again, without interruption; its swivel seat keeps open sight lines between students and their instructor, and a personal work surface swivels in tandem with the seat and is adjustable for users of all sizes. The chair accommodates left- and right-handed students and is large enough to support students’ laptops, tablets, or books.

Steelcase’s Verb line is a collection of classroom furniture designed to support a full range of teaching and learning styles on demand. The tables can be assembled into a collaborative workspace and include personal-size whiteboards that serve as space dividers during test time to ensure privacy. The Verb instructor station includes an integrated lectern that can hold notes, a laptop, or other materials. The lectern is perched on an arm that rotates 360 degrees, so it can be pushed out of the way when an instructor seated at the table.

The company’s eno interactive whiteboard supports both digital ink and dry-erase markers for ultimate versatility. Steelcase calls it “the greenest and lowest total cost of ownership interactive whiteboard on the market.” Environmentally certified, eno offers a “Forever Warranty” on its virtually indestructible ceramic-steel surface. The board requires no power and no software to be installed on a user’s computer.


Swivl is a clever robotic product that turns any iOS device into a lecture capture system in seconds, for just $199. Its goal is to make the process of capturing and uploading video easier and more natural, says company co-founder Brian Lamb.

The product consists of a base station with a slot that you can set an iPhone, iPad mini, or camera-enabled iPod touch into, and a remote transmitter that you wear. As you walk around the room, the base station automatically swivels to follow the transmitter, so the camera on your iPhone or iPod continues to focus on you. The transmitter doubles as a remote-control device for operating the base station manually as well.

Swivl’s second-generation product, which will launch this fall, will feature a sturdier base station designed to support a 10-inch iPad, in addition to smaller iOS devices. It also will include software for combining a video clip with a slide presentation, without having to edit it first—reducing the process of “flipping” your classroom down to an iPad and the Swivl, Lamb says.

The company also is working on software that includes analytics to show who has watched a video, as well as a version of the product that will support Android devices.

Technomad PowerChiton weatherproof amplifiers

Technomad’s new PowerChiton weatherproof amplifiers are an easy way to extend audio to athletic fields or other outdoor locations through a permanent sound system installation.

Each PowerChiton unit is capable of powering up to three 8-ohm loudspeakers. The units can be wall-mounted with the included mounting feet, or you can buy pole-mount adapters separately. An optional BreakOutBox interface gives you access to audio inputs and level controls in a secure, weatherproof box that also can store a microphone or MP3 player.

Viewsonic PJD7820HD high-definition projector

Viewsonic is bringing full 1080p high-definition video to schools and other mass markets with its PJD7820HD projector, which features 1080p resolution, an HDMI port, 3,000 lumens of brightness, a 15,000-to-1 contrast ratio, and a filterless design—all for around $700.

Native 1080p resolution uses 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, which is 2.6 times more than XGA resolution and two times more than WXGA resolution. The result is crisp detail and enhanced image quality without distortion or scaling of the original format, Viewsonic says. Other features of this 4.6-pound DLP projector include a 6-segment color wheel for more accurate colors, a lamp life reportedly lasting up to 6,000 hours, and an energy-saving Eco mode.

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