This presentation tool has the write stuff for the road

This presentation tool has the write stuff for the road

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

The government's most advanced spy satellite would have trouble beaming the contents of a whiteboard presentation in California to an office in Washington. But when the presenter uses eBeam, anyone with a Web browser can watch.

Electronics for Imaging Inc.'s eBeam presentation system would be equally useful in a Pentagon briefing room or a school classroom. It captures whiteboard markings in real time and distributes them via the Internet or an intranet. It can also store the files for later viewing and printing.




Box Score'''''''''''

eBeam

Presentation system


Electronics for Imaging Inc.;
Foster City, Calif.;

tel. 877-463-2326

www.efi.com

Price: $599


+ Captures whiteboard pen strokes

+ Browser-viewable without special software

' Unwieldy connection cord



Real-life requirements:

Microsoft Windows 9x, 256-color VGA or SVGA monitor, 100-MHz or faster processor, 4M of RAM, free 9- or 25-pin serial port, 6M of free storage, Internet connection for remote users, CD-ROM drive for software installation



As a presenter draws with eBeam's erasable markers on an ordinary whiteboard or flip chart, two sensor pods record and transmit each stroke to a PC serial port for local viewing or over a network to remote browser users. The maximum sensing area is a spacious 8 feet wide by 4 feet high.

The sensor pods must attach firmly to the upper corners of the whiteboard. They have suction cups, and one of my test pods refused to hold for any length of time, but otherwise the physical setup was stable.

From the pods, a long cord connects to a standard PC serial port. EBeam's maker obviously has mastered sending a wireless signal from the pen to the pods.

But why couldn't the pods also transmit wirelessly to a receiver close to a PC? One reason might be the cost. The current setup is a pricey $599.

In my test setup, I had to extend the long cord from the pods across the ceiling to a computer rack so that no passers-by would trip. If you want to use eBeam for lots of presentations, I suggest you bring along duct tape.

Once the sensor pods are firmly secured to the corners of the whiteboard, the next step is to load four colored, felt-tipped erasable pens into four special writing holsters.

Be sure to match up the pen and holster colors. Why? Because the sensors know only that, for example, the green holster is writing something on the board. If you had accidentally loaded, say, the red marker in the green holster, those viewing the saved image on local or remote computer screens would see green marks, whereas the people watching the board itself would see red. For some presentations, color differentiation could be crucial.

EBeam has high energy demands. Each of the four pens requires two watch-size batteries, and the eBeam eraser also runs on battery power. Fortunately, the pens draw power only when you press down to write, so the batteries last a long time. Likewise, the eraser records what you wipe off the board only when you press down.


An eBeam user's erasable markers transmit each penstroke to a display, inset, for immediate viewing using a browser.


Zoom in

As you mark on the whiteboard with the holsters, the pods transmit the data to the computer screen. If you draw fine details'or as fine as possible with a felt-tipped marker'remote users can zoom in to get a better view.

You can save a page at any time, wipe the board and begin recording a new page. Each pen stroke is recorded, so if you accidentally erase something, you can use VCR-like controls to 'rewind' the image.

While I was at lunch one day, other GCN Lab reviewers decided to play with my test setup by scribbling messages and drawing pictures, then erasing the board. Were they ever surprised when I later showed them a 'movie' of everything they had done.

You can save presentations in eBeam's proprietary format, which shows each pen stroke as it occurs, or save only the final pages in a variety of formats for later viewing.

Just being able to record a whiteboard brainstorming session is useful, but eBeam's remote browser function makes this product much more valuable for an organization that does a lot of presentations.

Remote users need no special software, but their browsers must have Java capability. A remote user simply points a Web browser to the IP address of the computer that is hosting the presentation. Remote users can scroll through previous pages without interrupting the presentation and print copies locally.

Although eBeam works best with whiteboards, you can use it on other surfaces. I set up the pods at the corners of a window and marked on the pane; eBeam worked fine.

This is also a tool for a highly mobile user. The hardware weighs less than 3 pounds and fits easily inside a notebook computer case.

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