The advent of the document camera marked the end of an era for the transparency machine. I can still remember coming home from teaching in the document camera's earliest days and rejoicing that my fingertips weren't stained with ink from having to use them as an eraser.
My document camera actually has become one of my most essential tools for direct instruction, as it has for my students when they get to share their own work or present creative ideas to the class. But as grateful as I am for my document camera, which I've been using happily for years, two problems have always annoyed me:
- Its video quality was always inadequate;
- Its still-image quality was always hit-or-miss.
It seems that the lighting is never quite right for making a high-contrast, clean image, especially when capturing a page or two from a book.
And then, just when I was about to accept these inadequacies, I discovered PolyVision's new fuse. They call it a "multifunction digital visualizer"; I call it "document cam 2.0." It's all I've ever wanted in a document camera. In addition to ratcheting up the video quality to 30 frames per second and ramping up the screen resolution to a whopping 1080p, the fuse comes with proprietary TrueSnap technology that automates the alignment and document cleanup processes to enhance your screen captures. I had to see it for myself, so I asked for a demonstration on the show floor.
First, we captured an image with the fuse. The result looked like every other image I had ever taken with a document camera: black words against a grey background. I then saved the image so I could compare it to my next picture.
Next, we enabled TrueSnap from the onscreen software interface and snapped another still image. This time, the contrast was striking and anything but washed out. The black text popped from the white background - and I mean popped! The software also realigned the image, eliminating the need to line it up perfectly before snapping a screen shot! It even "unfolded" the page and miraculously removed the curvature of the book's spine to create a totally flattened image.
In fact, the resulting image almost looked like a real document from a word processing program; I say "almost" because it's not quite there … yet. The black didn't look as sharp and defined as I expected it would. In particular, the letters looked a bit too soft around the edges. Nonetheless, fuse is a huge improvement in the document camera space.
The bad news: You'll have to wait until the fall to get one because it won't ship until Sept. 1 or later. What's more, once you've seen it, you'll become a bit of a document camera snob and possibly develop a condition I call "fuse envy."
But There's More...
Something else that caught my attention at the PolyVision booth was the company's solution for audio support. When I first walked by its eno interactive whiteboard display, I heard music playing, which isn't unusual: At a show like ISTE, there's music and loud talking everywhere you turn.
What was unusual was that the sound was actually emanating from the interactive whiteboard itself. One of PolyVision's booth attendants noticed my curiosity, so he urged me to touch the board. It was pulsing!
The company came up with a way to provide full-room sound quality from a single source, a solution it's calling eno play.
Slated for release on Sept. 1, eno play is a built-in, fully optimized amplifier. Its surround-sound effect can be created without any additional wiring or classroom modification. Plus, there are no visible speakers or amplifier. The "exciter" technology on the back of the eno board eliminates components, thus transforming the board into its own speaker system! Remarkable. You can plug in up to two sound devices through its two 1/8-inch stereo input jacks.
To find out which PolyVision interactive whiteboards support eno play, visit: polyvision.com/support/faqs/eno-play.
These audio and visual solutions are definitely worth a second look.
For more ISTE coverage, get the full picture in the ISTE 2011 Wrap-up.
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