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Mega 12ft interactive electro-whiteboard lures GTC12 punters

Uses crunchy Nvidia graphics cards

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HPC blog While wandering the exhibit floor at GTC12, my attention was captured by what looked like a massive (12ft x 4ft, 3.66m x 1.22m) electronic whiteboard with fast-moving screens portraying information in lots of different forms. Each window was being created, resized, moved, then closed at high speed without lag or distracting video artifacts. The demonstrator was also able to handwrite callouts and notes without missing a beat. With the hook firmly set in my fish-like mouth, I had to find out more.

I’ve seen and used a few, older, electronic whiteboard-like things and found them to be on the slow side and a bit clumsy (which, coincidentally, is how I’m usually described). This one uses an interactive camera approach that is very well- executed. You can see a brief video of him putting it through its paces for me here.

First off, the display surface isn’t magic at all; it’s just a hunk of white material. The images are projected onto the board by projectors suspended above, which are accompanied by cameras that track the movements of the pen over the material. (Projectors are outside of camera shot in video.) The projectors and cameras aren’t proprietary or even uber high-end models, from what I could tell.

The secret sauce is in the software, says Adam Biehler, senior account manager with Scalable Display Technologies. It’s the software that projects the image and, through use of its calibration tools, ensures that the aspect ratios are preserved and the angles are correct.

Their software also blends the output of two to more than six projectors, making sure that the edges are properly aligned and that overlaps are seamless. It also gives you full control over applications and allows you to capture and preserve screen contents at any point.

The software runs on any reasonably configured Windows PC, but it performs best with NVIDIA professional-level Quadro graphics cards (a 5000 model is recommended). Each Quadro 5000 can handle output from two large-scale projectors. If you have two Scalable Desktop systems, they can be used in concert to display material at, and from, two different locations at the same time.

There are many times when this tech would have saved me a lot of time and trouble. In business, for example, it would help me keep up with the frenzied whiteboard berserker who’s drawing pictures and then erasing them faster than I can jot down notes.

I can see where it would help at home, too, like when I’m trying to show my mom how to play a DVD. I’d project her TV and DVD player product manuals in two windows, and then pictures of her remote controls in still other windows, and finally prove to her that this is a well-documented and replicable use case. Sigh... ®

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