The Magazine for Leaders in Education: Presentation systems come of age: with lower prices and better technology, colleges are using plasma screens, lightweight projectors and high-tech whiteboards to change the way classes look

Presentation systems come of age: with lower prices and better technology, colleges are using plasma screens, lightweight projectors and high-tech whiteboards to change the way classes look

Mark Seavy

At an ever-quickening pace, universities and colleges are becoming proving ground for display technologies.

Huge lecture halls are home to high-tech LCD projectors, while plasma display panels can be found in nearby hallways where they are frequently used to provide up-to-the-minute information on class schedules.

With substantial budgets for audio/video equipment, many colleges and universities can afford products such as plasma screens–whose price tags can soar above $10,000 for a single panel–and many are taking advantage of it.

“I plan to use [plasma screens] to enhance team learning so that students using the new display technology can have multiple computers hooked up to them,” says Ann DeMarle-Pollak, a multimedia and graphics professor at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., which offers courses in e-commerce, Internet technology. “Then they could work on a project or a Web site together.”

Cost Considerations

The potential for team learning and the high-resolution images that can be displayed on the plasma screens has made the technology especially attractive to colleges and universities. Most are larger than 40 inches and can go as high as 63 inches, such as the new screen that Samsung began shipping this summer at $29,000.

On the lower end, more than a half-dozen companies sell 42-inch panels, and Fujitsu recently introducing a model with 800 x 600-pixel resolution (SVGA) at $5,999. To fund the purchases, universities and colleges will use internal funds as private money and donations, industry officials said.

Besides the price, a key selling points for many schools is the unit’s brightness and contrast ratio. Many of these screens offer a minimum of 300 lumens brightness and often more. New panels from Fujitsu and Panasonic boast a rating of 550 lumens.

Contrast ratio often starts in the 200:1 or 300:1 range, but rapidly increases with the larger sizes.

“There’s no sticker shocker at colleges and universities for plasma,” says Andrew Fliss, a vice president at Samsung, noting that many schools are shifting from similarly sized and priced 40- to 50-inch rear projection monitors containing three cathode ray tubes to plasma.

A key selling point for plasma also has been the much shallower depth of the panels, which require far less space than a standard rear projection monitor does. A standard plasma screen is typically to two to three inches deep, while a CRT-based monitor is usually 25 inches or more. The shallower depth also mixes with plasma’s ability to be hung on the wall like a framed picture, thus making them ideal for information displays that were first found at airports, but now are working their way into higher education.

Two areas that have nagged plasma screens–power consumption and the noise generated by the fan required to cool the panels–are also gradually being addressed. For example, Pioneer recently introduced a 50-inch wide screen panel (at $15,999) that draws 400 watts, down from 480 watts. Meanwhile, Fujitsu is promising a 32-inch screen that uses newly developed low voltage drivers to drop power consumption into the 200-watt range and eliminate the need for a fan.

“I’m not sure that big screen plasma will ever take off in the living room because there will be so many other technologies competing in that space,” says Joshua Kairoff, a senior field engineer at Pioneer. “But for industrial applications, including colleges and universities, where the feature demands require a more robust display, these will succeed.”

Smaller, Lighter, Brighter

As these screens replace CRT-based monitors, so will LCD projectors replace similarly featured units in the lecture halls. The process has been slow–most schools upgrade their projection equipment every five to six years–but a sharp drop in prices brought on by a glut of front projectors may quicken the pace. Prices have dropped 10 percent in each of the first two quarters this year bringing the entry-level models into the $2,000 range.

Most schools are shopping for projectors with 1,500 to 2,000 lumens brightness, 350:1 contrast ratio and a minimum resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, industry officials say. The resolution of the projectors depends largely on the resolution of notebook computers, which professors are increasingly using to deliver lectures, industry officials add.

Front projectors have also eased their way into classrooms by delivering smaller sized models that weigh less than to pounds. To achieve the smaller size, some projectors are employing LCDs as well as a technology developed by Texas Instruments called Digital Light Processing that can be delivered using microdisplay panels that measure less than one-inch diagonally. Projectors using TI’s DLP technology typically contain either One or three panels, the former of which has enabled the weight of some models to drop below five pounds and trump LCDs, which have yet to accomplish that feat. The other specifications are roughly the same as LCDs including 1,000 lumens or more brightness, 200:1 contrast ratio and 1,024 x 768 or more pixel resolution. JVC markets a rival technology dubbed Direct-Drive Image Light Amplifier while other companies are backing liquid crystal on-silicon, both of which have many of the same features as DLP and are based on a microdisplay that is less than one-inch diagonally.

The downside to the lighter models has been concerns about theft thus prompting many universities and colleges to favor heavier–six pounds of more–models that are typically installed in an auditorium or classroom.

“Most often, schools are talking about ceiling installations for auditorium classrooms,” says Candace Peterson, vice president of marketing at projector maker InFocus Systems and a former professor at Portland State University in Oregon. “They are not very big on mobile projectors because they can be stolen easier.”

Going Wireless

As universities replace their CRT-based projectors for LCD models, manufacturers also are attempting to introduce wireless technology that will allow a school’s technology staff to monitor the devices from a remote location within a college campus. Most manufacturers are introducing projectors with a slot for a so-called PCMCIA card that contains the ability to connect to other similarly featured models at distances of up to 300 feet, industry officials said. Sony, for example, has introduced a projector containing 48 megabytes of memory and a slot for a PCMCIA card. The projector has a $13,500 price and a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 pixels.

“The larger educational facilities are the ones that are interested,” says Jonathan Holmes, product manager for projectors at Sony. “Full deployment won’t be for another two to three years because massive rollouts will require big budgets and planning. This requires networking and making sure the system can parallel whatever they’re doing on their other IT projects.”

The goal of the PCMCIA card-based wireless technology is to enable a college or university’s technology staff to link with projectors in surrounding classrooms or auditoriums to determine whether they are operating properly, Holmes says. Another much-touted technological advance is Blue-Tooth. This system allows wireless connections for shorter distances, but is more expensive than the PCMCIA system.

Yet, college professors are less convinced of the need for wireless technology. “It doesn’t concern me so much because, realistically, I will always have a laptop or a desktop computer hooked up for demonstrations,” says DeMarle-Pollak, “and we don’t all have to be on a computer during class time.” Champlain College is building a media and graphics center that is scheduled to open in 2003.

LCD projectors and plasma screens will likely coexist for some time given that they tend to target different applications, says Christopher Niemeyer, an account executive at CCS Presentation Systems, which has installed both plasma screens and front projectors at Arizona State University.

“The application for plasma is large group viewing such as a public area where people are walking by looking for information,” he says, noting that many universities have deployed such screens for providing class information. “That’s a much different application than being in front of a group of 60 people and giving a presentation.”

High-tech whiteboards

Another product given new life with the help of technology is the ever-present whiteboard. These once simple, wall-mounted writing surfaces have become sophisticated digital recording devices, capable of capturing and archiving a lecture for later Web viewing. Among those leading the charge is Virtual Ink, which developed a system called Mimio. Unlike traditional electronic whiteboards, which rely on a dedicated board, Mimio uses acoustic and infrared sensors embedded in a data capture bar to track marker motion and color. The 24-inch data capture bar affixes to any flat surface turning it into an electronic whiteboard.

Whatever the lecturer does at the whiteboard is transferred to a Mac or PC running Mimio’s software program via a 12-foot serial cable. The newest version of Mimio enables handwriting recognition and a connection to a computer’s USB port for faster transfer of data than the standard serial port.

With an estimated install base of 60 million whiteboards split between the corporate and educational worlds, many companies are adapting the whiteboard technology to developed presentation system with a variety of features.

Brother International, for example, has developed the CopyPrint CP-2000, an electronic whiteboard that includes a built-in thermal printer and enables the user to capture a writing panel image on a PC so it can be saved as a TIFF, JPEG or BMP file for transmission through the Internet.

Even more advanced is Plus Corp’s PoinTech system which enables users to record and save spoken and written presentations in a single file. PoinTech, priced at $499, features a 72-inch diagonal, non-glare screen and can record a spoken presentation with the addition of Mimio’s BroadCast plug-in audio software. The software synchronizes the spoken and written portions of the presentation.

Technology Roundup: Presentation Systems

Here’s a guide to a wide range of products that can be used in both

classroom and larger presentation settings



Barco Projection Systems Inc. BARCOGRAPHICS 4000 has a poly-silicon LCD projection sys-

tem, dual-lamps with two 160

watt UHM lamps, digital gamma

correction circuitry

Canon Inc. Uses LCD technology

ComView Visual Systems Ltd. Uses DLP technology, digital videowall and soft edge blended,

large-scale display systems,

simultaneously displays analog

RGB, composite video

Dukane Corp. DLP technology. HDTV ready, zoom lens UHM lamps, digital

gamma correction circuitry

Elmo Manufacturing Corp. The newest additions, EDP-S10 and EDP X20, are ultra slim and

portable and use LCD technology.

Ideally suited for higher light out-

put as well as zoom capability

Fujitsu General America Inc. Uses LCD technology

Infocus Corp. LP 530. Brightest projector per pound in its class, weighs 5.7 lbs.

JVC Professional DLA G20 uses the patented D-

Products Company ILA device as its core technolo- gy. The reflective design of the

chip with a high-powered light

source makes it possible to

achieve higher levels of bright-

ness and resolution than with

conventional devices

Lightware Inc. Keystone correction, motorized hyper-zoom, 1-watt speaker,

uses DLP technology

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics ColorView, a patented color algo-

America, Inc. rithm that enables truer, more real- istic color for computer graphics and video displays in LCD projec-

tors. Also uses sRGB Color Profile

in its projectors for more accurate

color reproduction.

NEC Technologies Inc. Vortex technology for bold color- ful image display, Eco-mode

technology enabling users to

select a lower light output

option, increasing lamp life with

a minimal decrease in bright-

ness. LT85 and LT150 use DLP

technology. LT155, LT156 VT, MT

and GT series are LCD-based

Philips Ultra silent, digital zoom, digital keystone correction, advanced

connectivity for data and video,

ceiling mountable, easy plug

and play

Plus Corporation of America PLUS V series makes room-to- room classroom presentations a

matter of plug and play. Uses

DLP technology

Sharp Electronics Corp. Unmatched compatibility, super bright, lens shift, multiple data

and video inputs, digital key-

stone correction

Sony Electronics Inc. Uses LCD technology. Equipped to launch PC-less presentations

and enable any PC on the same

network to have direct communi-

cation exchanges. Ultraportable

models feature memory stick

digital media storage for PC-less

presentations. Users can trans-

fer digital data between compat-

ible devices, such as PCs, digital

camcorders and digital audio


Toshiba All projectors are super bright, lightweight and have a short-

throw lens technology so big

presentations can be held


Zenith Electronics Corporation uses LCD technology

3M Multimedia projectors including a 3.5 lb. unit for travel, a 5 lb.

system with built-in television

adapter, and a large venue pre-

sentation system

COMPANY, WEB SITE Brightness Resolution

(in lumens)

Barco Projection Systems Inc. 2200 1024 x 768 pixels,

compatible up

to 1280 x 1024


Canon Inc. 700-2750 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768


ComView Visual Systems Ltd. 600 ANSI 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768


Dukane Corp. 1300 1024 x 768 pixels

Elmo Manufacturing Corp. EDP-S10, EDP-S10,800 800; EDP- x 600 pixels;

X20 1100 EDP-X20, 1024

x 768

Fujitsu General America Inc. 1500-1300 1024 x 768 ANSI pixels


Infocus Corp. 2000 1024 x 768 pixels

JVC Professional 2000 1365 x 1024

Products Company pixels

Lightware Inc. 1100 800 x 600 pixels, XGA


Mitsubishi Digital Electronics up to 3,500 up to 1024 x

America, Inc. 768 pixels

NEC Technologies Inc. projectors 800 X 600 range from pixels, 1024

800-8000 X 768 pixels,

lumens and SXGA

Philips 1000 800 X 600 pixels

Plus Corporation of America 800 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768


Sharp Electronics Corp. 1000-3300 1024 x 768 pixels with


resizing up to

UXGA (1600 x

1200 pixels)

Sony Electronics Inc. depending 800 x 600 and on size, 1024 x 768

ranges pixels

from 700-


Toshiba 1000 to 2000 800 x 600 pixels, com-

patible up to

1024 x 768


Zenith Electronics Corporation 1200 1024 x 768 pixels up to

1600 x 1200


3M 800-2700 1024 x 768 resolution pixels


range of portables

Barco Projection Systems Inc. $12,955 20.3 lbs.

Canon Inc. $2,199- 5.95 lbs.- $11,995 15.4 lbs.

ComView Visual Systems Ltd. price based not on configu- applicable


Dukane Corp. $5,000 6 lbs.

Elmo Manufacturing Corp. $3,995- starting at $5,200 5.3 lbs.

Fujitsu General America Inc. $5,999- 7.9-17.2 lbs. $12,999

Infocus Corp. $1,999- Some $10,000 models less

than 3 lbs.

JVC Professional $7,000 starting

Products Company and up at 8 lbs.

Lightware Inc. $2,495 5.5 lbs.

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics starting at starting at

America, Inc. $2,495 3.1 lbs.

NEC Technologies Inc. $2,495- 13.3-4.9 lbs. $84,995


Plus Corporation of America $3,000- 2 lbs. $6,000

Sharp Electronics Corp. $4,495- 3.1 lbs. $19,995

Sony Electronics Inc. $2,800- 5 lbs. $22,000

Toshiba $3,000- 6 lbs. $7,000

Zenith Electronics Corporation $5,995 7 lbs.

3M $5,695- 3.5 lbs. $9,995

COMPANY, WEB SITE Networking Connects

capability to computers,

DVDs,and VCRs

Barco Projection Systems Inc. no yes

Canon Inc. yes yes

ComView Visual Systems Ltd. no yes

Dukane Corp. no yes

Elmo Manufacturing Corp. currently yes in develop-


Fujitsu General America Inc. no yes

Infocus Corp. no yes

JVC Professional yes yes

Products Company

Lightware Inc. no yes

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics yes yes

America, Inc.

NEC Technologies Inc. GT1150 yes and GT2150


LAN card


GT950 has




Philips no yes

Plus Corporation of America no yes

Sharp Electronics Corp. yes yes

Sony Electronics Inc. yes yes

Toshiba no Yes

Zenith Electronics Corporation no yes

3M yes yes




Barco Projection Systems Inc. BARCOREALITY 6400. Ideal for conference

rooms and auditoriums.

Extremely high light out-

put. Networking capa-

bilities. $24,995

Canon Inc.

ComView Visual Systems Ltd.

Dukane Corp.

Elmo Manufacturing Corp. EDP-6100 for large venue applications and

EDP-3600 for medium

size conference rooms

Fujitsu General America Inc.

Infocus Corp.

JVC Professional

Products Company

Lightware Inc.

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics

America, Inc.

NEC Technologies Inc. The LT series microportable projec-

tors include a presenta-

tion viewer that enables




Plus Corporation of America PLUS U3 series consists of 3-lb. projectors fea-

turing 1000 ANSI

lumens. Users don’t

have to turn off lights

for presentations

Sharp Electronics Corp.

Sony Electronics Inc.

Toshiba BARCOREALITY 6400. Ideal for conference

rooms and auditoriums.

Extremely high light out-

put, True Color Repro-

duction feature

processes conventional

video signals into bril-

liant images; Pixel Map

Processor guarantees

legible characters. Net-

working capabilities.


Zenith Electronics Corporation

3M MP8820 is based on breakthrough imple-

mentation in liquid crys-

tal on silicon technolo-

gy. It features image

enhancing technology

which delivers truer live

colors, sharper contrast

and a higher level of




Fuiitsu General America Inc. Uses plasma technology

JVC Professional Products GD-V500 PZU uses

Company plasma technology

NEC Technologies Inc. Uses plasma technology

Sharp Electronics Corp. LCD technology

Sony Electronics Inc. Uses plasma technology

Zenith Electronics Corporation Uses LCD and plasma technologies

COMPANY, WEB SITES Sizes Brightness

Fuiitsu General America Inc. 21″, 42″, 50″ 300-700 cd/m2

JVC Professional Products 42″ and 50″ 500 cd/m2


NEC Technologies Inc. 42″, 50″, 61″ 500 cd/m2

Sharp Electronics Corp. 10″, 12″, 13″, 400 nits 15″, 20″, 28″

Sony Electronics Inc. 42″ 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution

Zenith Electronics Corporation Sizes: 40″ and 370cd/m2 and 180 60″ in plasma; cd/m2 in plasma;

20″ and 15″ in 450cd/m2 and

LCD 250cd/m2 in LCD



Fuiitsu General America Inc. varies from 350:1- 580:1

JVC Professional Products 3000:1


NEC Technologies Inc. varies from 350:1- 1000:1

Sharp Electronics Corp. 200:1

Sony Electronics Inc. no specifications available

Zenith Electronics Corporation 500:1 and 250:1 in plasma; 400:1 and

200:1 in LCD


of colors

the screen recognizes

Fuiitsu General America Inc. 16.77 million

JVC Professional Products 24-bit RGB


NEC Technologies Inc. 16.7 million

Sharp Electronics Corp. 16.7 million

Sony Electronics Inc. 16.8 million

Zenith Electronics Corporation N/A



Fuiitsu General America Inc. $5,999-$14,999

JVC Professional Products $8,000 to $20,000


NEC Technologies Inc. $7,495-$27,995

Sharp Electronics Corp. $1,399-$16,995

Sony Electronics Inc. $7,999-$8,999

Zenith Electronics Corporation Plasma/$6,999- $32,999; LCD/$4, 995-




Plus Corporation of America PoinTech allows users to record and save, in one integrated file, their

spoken and written presentation in

sequence. Information written in

free-hand on the surface is

automatically captured in a compact

data file on the PC where it can be

saved, printed or distributed over

the Internet. Also allows users to

project software applications on its

screen surface and then operate the

application by touching the screen

with a special Stylus Pen. Can be

used for distance learning

PolyVision Corp. From electronically capturing whiteboard notes to providing large

screen interactive computer

functionality, including Internet

access, PolyVision’s Webster line

offers two electronic whiteboard

solutions. Everything written or

drawn on the surfaces of The Webster

LT and TS electronic whiteboards,

which easily link to a PC or Mac, can

then be printed, e-mailed, faxed or

uploaded to the Web. The Webster LT

functions as an interactive

projection screen when connected to

an LCD projector. Using Microsoft

NetMeeting users can hold video,

voice, and data conferencing sessions

with remote users via LAN, WAN,

Internet, or modem-to-modem


Egan Teamboard Inc. Adds the power of a computer to capture and save drawn images. Can be

coupled with a video-conferencing

system for distance learning to allow

information to be shared to all

locations. Designed to integrate with

Microsoft NetMeeting for software

based video-conferencing. For use

with more traditional

video-conferencing, the PC’s video

signal can be transmitted to a remote

site so that drawings on the

TeamBoard, which appear on the PC’s

screen, are also visible at remote


Smart Technologies Inc. Turns user’s computer and projector into a tool for teaching,

collaborating and presenting. With a

computer image projected onto the

board, users can press on its large,

touch-sensitive surface to access and

control any application. Using a pen

from the SMART Pen Tray, users can

take notes and highlight important

information. Can be used for distance


Virtual Ink Mimio works with any whiteboard. When attached it captures everything

written or drawn electronically to

the user’s computer in color and

real-time. The notes are ready to be

saved, printed, edited or shared.

Additionally the mimioMouse software

allows users to turn a whiteboard

into an interactive touch screen.

Files can be converted to HTML, and

multiple whiteboards can be linked

together for viewing over the Web for

distance education

ViewWriter It is neither solely an LCD projector, a display panel or an

electronic whiteboard. Displays

printouts on copier paper or

transparencies, handwriting in dry

erase markers (which can also be

erased in real time on the

ViewWriter’s glass surface), 3D

objects via its optional surface

camera accessory, or inputs from many

different devices such as a laptop or

PC, camcorder, videoconferencing

system, satellite receiver, or


WallTalkers/RJF International Projectable whiteboard is not electronic, however, the nu-vu-rite

dry erase presentation wallcovering

combines the features of a

high-quality screen with the

advantage of a large, seamless

writing surface. Engineered with a

patented “bi-directional” lenticular

embossed vinyl, it provides

projection, plus wide-angle viewing

with virtually no image fall off. Top

Teflon film enables the use of dry

erase markers. Best if used for 95%

projection, 5% writing



Plus Corporation of America Windows 95/98/2000/me

PolyVision Corp. Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME

Egan Teamboard Inc. 95 Windows, 98, and NT. Pentium 150 for

ME, and Pentium 133

for Windows 2000.

Smart Technologies Inc. PC or Mac with a USB or serial


Virtual Ink PC or Mac. Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT or

Windows Me

ViewWriter No system requirements

WallTalkers/RJF International N/A



Plus Corporation of America Yes, with the pur- chase of mimio

boardCast plug-in

audio software

PolyVision Corp. By sharing the Web- ster software through

a NetMeeting confer-

ence, all participants

can share the white-

board. The software

annotation and pro-

jection tools are fully

functional with Net-


Egan Teamboard Inc. Yes. Any Web-cast that captures video

from the PC and

transmits it can do so

with the PC’s video.

The PC’s video dis-

plays all drawings on

the TeamBoard

Smart Technologies Inc. Yes if used with soft- ware such as WebEx.

Users can also use

NetMeeting to share

notes in multiple

locations in real time

Virtual Ink Live streaming is sup- ported through the

mimio boardCast

plug-in. Requires that

the user have access

to a Real Network G2

streaming server.

Mimio is compliant

with Microsoft Net-


ViewWriter Displays almost any object in real time

and can be hooked

into videoconferenc-

ing system

WallTalkers/RJF International no


Plus Corporation of America $2,199

PolyVision Corp. Webster TS $799-$3,499

Webster LT


Egan Teamboard Inc. $1,230- $2,400

Smart Technologies Inc. $1,199- $13,999

Virtual Ink Cost: $499 for PC, $599 for


ViewWriter $4,995

WallTalkers/RJF International Cost: varies among

product lines

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