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.