Monday, November 17, 2014

Large Touch Screen Technology

I knew it was going to happen... in fact this post sort of let it out of the bag a little early.

With prices around $7000 all up for the bigger ones and the $5000 mark for the smaller ones (55") many schools are looking at this as their next display tool. It looks like touch screen technology is now on par for installation and trolley based IWB systems from 5 years ago with a couple of added advantages.

  1. Multi touch - these touch screens come in 2, 6, and 32 touch modes.
  2. Super bright - these can be used in very bright shared use area or undercover areas. - Glare and reflection is still and issue.
  3. No shadow - as the light source is behind the image.
  4. No lamps to replace and with most of them having expected lifetimes of over 10 years a very good TCO.
  5. Multi use - the touch screen can be just a TV for Free to air or cable content.
OK so this is the future of the hardware going into schools, I have installed  32 x 60" and 70" screens into a brand new school and more to come as some schools start to cycle out their IWB's for touch screens.

I have to say though, the touch projector from Epson  (EB595Wi) is maybe stemming the flow to touch screens as it is still a lot cheaper  at about 1/2 the price .

So what are the implications...

Software - Most software for PC and Mac is not multi touch enabled. There are a few like Google earth, but at this stage there is not much out there for content or content creation for multi-touch computing. We will see this change and there are some great multi touch demos from the old Microsoft surface project.

With Windows 8, multi touch is baked right into the operating system and many applications now support multiple touch natively.

I have come across Intuiface  which has a lot of promise as far as content creation goes. They have a free version that has a small watermark, but it is easy to use. Very much like PowerPoint with some extra muscle.

Others like snowflake are very expensive and hard to get your head around.

It's worse for Apple Mac computers that have no multi-touch embedded into the operating system and must rely on TUIO interface connectors. Hopefully Apple will come out with some form of multi-touch for their Macbook range soon. And as many of us lament - ipads have no USB interface so no dice there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Worlds First Multi Finger Touch Interactive Projector - Epson 595Wi

Touch Interactive Projector

It has taken a while - but Epson has finally invented a pen-less interactive projector.

For about 5 years we have been selling the Epson range of ultra short throw interactive projectors. Starting with the EB 450Wi in 2010, then the EB 455Wi, then the massively popular EB 485Wi from 2012 until May this year. The final incarnation of this projector is the EB 585Wi - and we still sell these more than just about any other projector.

The ultra short throw form factor is perfect for interactive projection, with a reduced shadow, higher brightness and more accurate calibration.

The defining feature with these projectors was that the interactivity was smooth and responsive without the use of a special board, any whiteboard could be used as a projection and interactive surface. But there was one thing that customers asked for - finger touch capability. These projector rely on a stylus system, special pens that had to be used to interact with the computer and give the position of the cursor.

A couple of months ago Epson released the EB 595Wi - a finger touch based interactive projector. Looking exactly the same as the 585Wi pen based unit - the 595Wi also comes with a separate IR curtain module that projects a curtain of IR across the surface of the board  - and when a finger or any other object breaks or frustrates the curtain it lights up in infra-red and the camera in the projector picks up the XY position on the board and translates that break as a touch. It is a variation on the Frustrated IR touch screen system.

We have now put it in a few schools and colleges and the feedback we have had so far has been great - teachers find it more natural to touch without a pen - especially with Windows 8 and the gestures you can use normally with a tablet.

The one drawback is that the IR curtain projector must be placed above the projection, but on the same surface as the projected image - taking up about 15cm of space at the top of the board. This reduces the image size that can be projected on a standard 1200mm high whiteboard by about 5"-7" diagonally.. Yes I know I'm mixing up my measurements but diagonals seem to be standardised in inches.

Some of our clients are getting around this by buying non standard 1400mm high whiteboards to get back the full size of the the projection. others are just happy with a slightly smaller projection. Epson are apparently developing an off board solution as well.

These projectors are now on special - at less that $AU 2000 ex GST.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rihac - Continuous Ink System - A review after a year and a bit.

So you are probably aware of how your printer stores and uses ink and how to refill it. And you probably wonder why it costs so much for an ink cartridge... It is generally the most expensive liquid you will buy in terms of dollar per litre - including designer perfume.

Our epson printer is an older wireless epson T40W - it was costing approx $60-$70 for a full set of Epson cartridges or about $40 for a full set of 3rd cartridges. Considering that I like to print photos and my partner is a relief teacher and tends to print out school worksheets by the 30's as she has no access to a photocopier at the school. We tend to go through ink a bit....

I think the worst part is running out right in the middle of printing something at 1am or having to brave the weekend shops only to find they don't have that cartridge... aside from the exorbitant price...

So I did some research and this Australian company RIHAC makes a continuous ink system. Continuous ink systems are a 3rd party add on system that pipes ink from ink tanks outside of the printer to replacement cartridge heads.

My printer was out of warranty anyway so I decided to give it a go and bought the System on special for @$100. including the ink

The T40W is one of the harder ones to set up - and took me about 2 hours to get set up perfectly - mostly running the piping so that it didn't catch on anything as the printer head moved back an forth - the instructions were pretty clear but it was still a bit of a challenge.

Brother printers seem to be the easiest to set up - literally plug in and go so if you are buying a new printer have a look at the Rihac website to see which ones are the easiest to install.

So it has been well over a year and a half since I put in the system - and I have just bought my first refill pack for $50. And although there have been times where the printer needed cleaning or the system needed a prime or head cleaning, it has been fantastic. There has been no difference in print quality for the work we do with it.

I think I have saved at least $400 in ink cartridges for my printer - and running out of ink mid print is a thing of the past as I can see how much ink I have left (not some software thing that can't be checked).

If you do a lot of printing - or if you print your own photos, have a look at a continuous in system for your printer. If you are at a school and you do art prints either on a A3 or large format printer this could save you a bundle as not only do they have the dye based in but also pigment ink for high quality photo work.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Google Apps - free apps for education

Google Apps looks like it might be one of the winners from the google lab.

With an easy to use interface and a great range of "apps" this could be the new way I get things done. It's like the app store or google play.

What is it? - Google apps uses the chrome web browser as a base and apps are downloaded into it the browser. These apps are sometimes online websites but can also be stand alone of line applications using Chrome as their base.

What is on it? For educators and students... Quite a lot, from on and off line note taking, to classroom management tools to on line IWB software that allows you to collaborate in the cloud. A couple on my starting list include - Biodigital, realtime board, gynzy and Google Drive. There are few that have been ported over from android but most are specifically for full computers. To honest there is more than enough for education, looks like I have a lot of material to review - and most will work with IWB's and Touchscreens.

How do you get it? First download and install google chrome, then once you are up and running go to the far right hand side near the top and click on the 3 bar icon, head down to settings, then click on extensions and scroll down to "get more extensions" - to make it easy to get to your apps you can also install the Chrome App Launcher which makes it easy to get to your apps on your has a shortcut to all the downloadable apps.

Or just go to:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Free eBeam software upgrade

Well it has been a long while since my last post....

Several things have happened in the interim including big projects both professionally and personally, and I've been on extended leave as I've travelled through eastern Europe - so the blog got left for a while.

One of the great things about a blog is that you can just pick it up again and start writing - there is no need to start a new one or feel embarrassed about taking an extended break.

OK so here is some good news if you use ebeam scrapbook as your daily teaching whiteboard software on your PC. New updates have been released over the last two months that add more content to the library (especially things people have been asking for like a scientific calculator). Plus an annoying text box problem has been fixed.

Go to the eBeam portal to download and update 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Epson DC20 Review

This is the new DC20 from Epson and on the surface it doesn't look much different from the DC11 That came out a couple of years ago- click here to see my review. Except it has a massive lens on it - which I later find out is for the exceptional optical 12 x zoom.

We had to open one of ours to show a customer - and so we set it up and put it through it's paces using a 55" screen to see the imperfections...

Man there was a real difference there - the image going from the HDMI output to the TV was amazing, and the optical zoom was smooth and fast. The lag time was minimal and it just worked straight out of the box with no real set up.

Unlike the DC11 the unit folds up quite small and has a twist joint that makes it very flexible.

Just like the DC06 and the DC11 you can hook up the camera to your computer for more control as well as recording and snap shooting.

If it were me - I'd go for the DC20 over the DC11 for image quality and Zoom, and there is not much of a price difference. I'll do a proper review when I have one for demonstration purposes and can spend more time with it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Free Classroom Management and Recording

This was one of my stumbles last night...

Classroom management is a real challenge for some teachers, I find it difficult to objectively assess students  behaviour, because so much is tied up in my emotional investment in the class.

This looks like a good option - ClassDojo, it's both an app and a website that helps you collect and visualise student behaviour data.

You can also have a live behaviour chart up and running on your IWB.

The interface is easy to use and the App for your smart phone means you can take it with you for sport and out of classroom activities. With an easy way to record both good and bad behaviour, and a great visual way to report on each student, you can start to manage classroom behaviour issues.

You can customise behaviours and the students can change their avatars and track their own progress.

It is much easier to manage what you can measure.