Intruige and Disappointment
I spent most of yesterday with my school’s ICT Co-ordinator at BETT; my first time at the show, which turned out to be thoroughly useful and interesting.
One of the most intriguing products I saw on display was the PVI2600 Pro-Vue Interactive Projector from CIE Group. Back in 2007 you may remember a series of YouTube videos of innovative uses of the Nintendo Wii remote by Johnny Chung Lee, then a postgraduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. One of his projects was to show how the Wii Remote could be used to track an infrared light source on the end of a pen, turning any surface into an interactive whiteboard. At the time I wondered how long it would be before similar technology was commercialised, and yesterday I saw it not only on the market, but at a reasonable price, integrated directly into a high-quality front projection unit. The result is a potentially highly-portable interactive surface so large, you need an extra-long pen to reach the top of it:
Given that we have problems with the small size of a traditional interactive whiteboard in one of our labs, I will definitely be looking at getting one of these in the next budgetary year.
The big disappointment of the day came from Dell, whom I normally have a lot of praise for. Last year I was excited by the announcement of their Latitude 2100 netbooks that include a touchscreen, and was further excited that they would be available with a bespoke Mobile Computing Station from Ergotron that featured a quick slot-in action to connect both the power and a wired network connection for overnight updates. A couple of months ago I had one of the L2100’s in my hands, and was pleased that it was even better than the specifications had suggested, prompting me to make plans to buy at least a class set, complete with charging station. However, I was distraught to have it was confirmed to me on the stand that not only is the charging station not currently available outside the US, but that there are no plans to make it so.
(UPDATE: It seems the info I got on the stand was partly incorrect, and it will be available later this year. Thanks to @Edu4U in the comments for the heads-up.)
At the time, I was… displeased.
Yes, there are a lot of laptop charging trolleys out there, but most of them are still a pain in the backside to connect up, and none of them can match the ease-of-use of the Dell offering. The L2100 is an excellent netbook that has received very little exposure compared to most of its competitors, and the charging station is the perfect system to keep them in. To not offer that unique selling point outside the US is a mistake in my opinion, and only serves to remind me that I saw some very nice netbooks and laptops on the Lenovo stand.
I was further irritated by a Dell rep trying to placate me by telling me how the N-Trig touchscreen on the L2100 was multi-touch capable, which is utter rubbish because the touchscreen in the L2100 is made by IdeaCom; the N-Trig multi-touch screen is in the much more expensive Latitude XT tablet (which I came very close to buying for myself last year).
Overall, not a great showing; given the new information in the update, I think they may be an opportunity for better training of Dell’s show staff here.