Going to the Wall…. is there finally a point to Interactive Projectors?

 I’ve always hated Interactive Projectors. Well ‘hate’ is perhaps too strong a word, especially when directed at a piece of educational technology. But dislike certainly captures my attitude.

The problems I had with Interactive Projectors were twofold.  Firstly, all the ones I ever used were pretty poor substitutes for an interactive whiteboard.  Because the units used Infra-red to provide the interactivity they have a pen which is cumbersome to hold, and many models had a horrid push-in scratchy nib and were large and heavy in the hand.

Using a pen instead of a finger is always a compromise for mouse functions, nothing can beat the immediacy of a finger touch.  And the problem with a pen solution is, in a word, the pen. You can lose it, break it, or find the battery is flat. Any of these 3 means game over, and as you can’t lose your finger, it doesn’t have a battery and even if you break it you have 7 others to use on the board.

My second problem with the interactive projector was how many people used to declare proudly that the solution did not need a board on the wall, that the wall itself became interactive. They proclaimed this as it it were a miracle, as if that was a *brilliant* thing.  But it was not a brilliant thing at all, in fact it was quite the opposite  it was a *rubbish* thing.  The problem was what to do with the wall.  Using the wall itself was never a realistic solution for a classroom used everyday.  The wall would be rough and scratchy on the pen, and it would get grubby and dirty quite quickly. If you try and solve the problem by putting a dry wipe board on the wall, then you get a bright white hotspot of glare from the projector which is uncomfortable for anyone looking at the board.  The other issue with a dry wipe board is that if you use marker pens on it, you need to clean the board very thoroughly before using the projector otherwise you get smeared ink on the image which again ruins the impact of the projected image.  So the fact that interactive projectors make the wall interactive is not a feature nor is it a benefit of the product; it’s a problem you have to solve (very possibly with a compromise).

At BETT 2013, SMART unveiled the Lightraise 60WI. It’s the world’s first interactive projector which responds to a finger touch as well as pens.  The touch response is excellent, quick and responsive and without any lag or dead spots.  And it can take two finger touches, so two people can work on the board at the same time or you can use the now familiar two finger gestures such as pinch and zoom.  SMART have managed to solve one of the major problems with the IPJ genre, namely the clunky pens; and finally using one could be a pleasure to use rather than a chore.

The issue of what to put on the wall is still unresolved, and to be honest I still hold that if you want an interactive surface, you’re best bet is to get an interactive whiteboard, solving at a stroke the problem of what to put on the wall. I’m still not a massive fan of interactive projectors, but with this big leap forward in engineering, SMART may finally be showing us the point to interactive projectors.


Author: mjp6034

Education consultant specialising in educational technology and change management.

3 thoughts on “Going to the Wall…. is there finally a point to Interactive Projectors?”

  1. Matthew
    I take your point about the finger\pen debate and agree that finger is better. However at IS12013 last week there was no doubt for me that the interactive projector is going to give IWBs a run for their money.
    Of more concern to me is the proprietary nature of the supporting software, if I have a IP, IWB and large flat interactive flat panel I could end up with 3 software packages (if I stick to licence agreements). However on the NEC stand there was a product called Display Note which is product and platform agnostic. I have yet to confirm licensing costs but will be following this up.
    With regard to what to hang on the wall? I have decided to put full width writing surface up which can also be projected onto. Comcen, ProjectaI and TK team all have suitable boards. This method also solves the problem we have of not enough real estate on the teaching wall to project onto and provide a writing surface. Of course this solution is only suitable in environments where writing surfaces can be used in a meaningful way i.e. the students can read the text from the furthest location.
    I will of course look at the SMART offering and thanks for the heads up on that but it would have to be able to support software other than SMART.

  2. Nigel
    The Display Note software sounds interesting, I’m off to download it now and have a play.
    In terms of the SMART offering (and bear in mind I have no affiliation with SMART at all), you obviously need Notebook 11 installed as the drivers are needed to get the 60WI working. But whether your users use Notebook 11 or not is up to them. I imagine that it works pretty well with any other software (such as Display Note), the only caveat being that full integration of digital inking (such as the pen recognition), would not be as slick as it is in Notebook.

    It’s one of these things where a real world trial is needed before you can see whether the solution will work for your users or not.

  3. I would just like to add that the word ‘learner’ or ‘child’ has not been used yet. Projecting an image or having a teacher use annotation software is simply carrying on the eternal issue of passive learning … Speed of response and educational benefits should drive kit choice in a classroom. Lets get two or more kids working quickly with software designed for education. … At a height they can access!

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