Interactive Projectors were dubbed the “Interactive Whiteboard Killer” some years back. There emergence onto the scene did rock the market a little bit. Why would you need an interactive whiteboard if you could get the technology in an interactive projector? This was the thoughts of many.
In my opinion, they did ok, but they were not the “Interactive Whiteboard Killer” as many thought. That said, there were quite a lot of them sold into schools and businesses, so in this blog post, we are going to look at why you should be replacing them with Interactive Flat Panels.
What is an Interactive Projector
According to Projectorcentral.com “Interactive projector technology encompasses solutions that enable the user to actively participate with the projected image.
Typically the presenter is allowed to interact with either the projected image, the projector, or in some cases another device. Interactive Projectors essentially mimic the function of an interactive whiteboard on any surface where the image is projected. This allows the presenter to interact with the projected image using an electric or mechanical stylus and often simply a finger.
Some interactive projectors allow user generated information to be captured, replayed, printed or copied with or without the original projected image.”
I would add to this in that the projectors involved are normally short throw projectors which decrease the amount of shadow cast onto the wall or surface where they are projecting. Below is an example of an Interactive Projector from Epson. (image credit – projectorcentral.com)
How Does It work?
There are a number of technologies that can be employed into Interactive Projectors. Optical tracking and ultrasonic were popular with early interactive projectors. For example, the projector would have integrated technology that would create a virtual grid on the surface.
Following calibration, it would then be looking for an object to “break” the line of sight, whether this was a pen, stylus or finger. It would very quickly cross reference this position with the referenced calibration points, and the calculate a mouse position which was then transmitted back to the computer.
This was done hundreds of times a second to give a constant mouse position on the wall or surface that it was using.
There were also ultrasonic projectors where the pen or stylus was emitting a low “buzzing” sound in order for the projector to calculate the mouse position.
I guess the summary here is that the technology is ok, not great in my opinion, just ok. Was it any better than that of Interactive Whiteboards, probably not to be totally honest. I think the performance that you got from a whiteboard was often better, but again, this is just my own opinion.
What are the benefits of Interactive Projectors?
To be quite frank, I think that the benefits were more “perceived benefits” than actual ones. They were a different take on Interactive Whiteboards but were not really blistering new technology, more a slight modification of existing technology. At the time of launch, short throw projectors had become the norm. So what they had done was take the technology out of the interactive whiteboard and put it into the projector.
Therefore, the first perceived advantage was that you didn’t need a whiteboard. (but we will see below that in fact you still did!)
There was also little difference in the cost of an Interactive Whiteboard and short throw projector when you factored in the fact that you needed a regular good quality whiteboard with a low glare surface and an Interactive Projector.
I may seem a little biassed here, but I really am struggling to come up with any advantages for the interactive whiteboard.
What are the downsides of Interactive Projectors?
What about the surface?
This is the big one for me. I remember when the Interactive Projectors were first released and the big unique selling point (USP) from the manufacturers was that you didn’t need a whiteboard. Ok, that’s fine, but what are you going to project onto?
Having been in many a classroom over the years, the prospect of finding a nice totally flat wall is slim to none. Then, if you are going to use a stylus on the wall, you are going to scatch it over time and leave marks. I think this was a false economy.
OK, well, “we’ll just use our regular whiteboards“. Again, fine in principle, but in practice, the glare and the hot spot made this a bad combination. Therefore, the only option was to pair these up with low glare porcelain enamel steel surfaced whiteboards.
If it was a melamine surface, and a low glare, then the regular dry erase marker pens left ink behind and they were difficult to clean.
Bulbs & Filters
Bulbs and filters = cost and maintenance
This is the basic equation for anything that needed bulbs and filters. Whilst it might be possible now to get Interactive Projectors that use lasers and are filterless, back in the day, and the ones you have in your classrooms if you are reading this article, certainly have both.
The cost of replacing these and maintaining the product becomes expensive the longer it goes on. It it more cost efficient in the long run to change to an Interactive Flat Panel.
I just plug my computer in an off I go right? Er, no. that is not the case with Interactive Projectors, they need to have their own drivers and calibration software installed onto the machines that you want to connect them to.
This has always been one of the most annoying things with this kind of technology, especially for the regular IT Administrator.
I’ve got my divers installed, I can just use the Interactive Projector right? Er, no, wrong again. You need to go through the lengthy calibration process which generally was a few more dots than the IWB counterparts. If the projector got nudged, or a door slammed and it moved, they you would need to do it again – just plain irritating and time consuming.
Projectors and their Interactive Counterparts, were and are never a simple “hang and bang” – they are always much more involved. Getting a square image at the right pitch takes a skilled installer. It is time consuming and for that reason, can be costly.
Is there a better alternative to Interactive Projectors?
Of course there is! Interactive Flat Panels!
We’ve looked at the advantages of Interactive Flat panels before in our blog, https://touchittechnologies.com/why-do-i-need-these-interactive-flat-panels/
but I will highlight some of the main advantages again.
Interactive Flat Panels present a whole host of advantages over their predecessor.
- There’s no shadow, as the image is coming from the panel itself rather than a projector.
- For many units there are no drivers
- The units are brighter, last for around 50,000 hours, have very few serviceable parts, and to top it all off, most don’t need calibrating
In short, the Interactive Flat Panels will last longer and ultimately have a lower cost of ownership than the Interactive White Boards they are replacing. They’re also much easier to install too.
Considerations when replacing Interactive Projectors with Interactive Panels.
I’m not going to repeat myself here and highlight all the benefits again, I am just going to give you more of a check list for the things you should be considering when replacing interactive projector with interactive flat panels
- What size Interactive Flat Panel are you going to look at?
- If you are removing the whiteboard or screen, what is behind?
- Are you going to need decoration?
- Where are the power outlets located?
- Where is the teacher desk if they are going to use their own computer?
- Do you need any additional cable runs to the LED?
- Is you wall reinforced or are you able to mount an Interactive Flat Panel on the wall (think about the weight)
Thanks for reading, hop you enjoyed this post!