Adaptable Mimio maxes out presentation value

Adaptable Mimio maxes out presentation value

Virtual Ink whiteboard tool is built solidly, is easy to control and can work on many surfaces

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

The Mimio presentation system is one of a new generation of products designed to turn an ordinary whiteboard into an electronic sharing tool. I've looked at similar products, but the Mimio is built more solidly.

Such systems work through sensors that attach to the whiteboard. When the presenter draws on the whiteboard with marker pens in special holders, sensors record the marks on a computer screen. Not only is the work saved stroke by stroke, but other participants at remote locations can tap in and watch the presentation in real time.

The Mimio presentation system's components are somewhat sturdier than those of other whiteboard add-ons for electronic conferencing.

The Mimio's large penholders act as transmitters. Their bulk does make them a bit awkward to grasp, especially for fine markings, but it also protects the delicate electronics from wear and tear.

One negative besides the bulky shape is that changing each penholder's tiny AAA battery requires depressing a lever, which can't be done when the device is loaded. It feels as if it's going to break before the battery comes free.

On the installation plus side, the device has both Universal Serial Bus and serial ports. When plugged into USB, the device gets its power from the port, eliminating the need for an extra cable. The Mimio does not come with a USB cable, however; that costs $49 extra.

Once everything is set up'and be careful with those suction cups, which tend not to stick'the Mimio really shines. It uses a combination of infrared and ultrasound signals to capture every mark accurately.

Box Score

Mimio 1.1

Whiteboard presentation tool

Virtual Ink Corp.; Boston;

tel. 617-623-8387

Price: $499

+ Fairly rugged and adaptable

' Batteries hard to change

Real-life requirements:

Win9x or NT and 32M of RAM; NetMeeting software for remote participants

It also has a great control scheme. A large plastic bar sensor can sit either on the side or on top of the whiteboard. The bar has several useful buttons for wiping the screen of the recording computer, printing the captured information or changing the screen dimensions. These hot keys avoid fumbling when you must advance the presentation quickly. The Mimio automatically detects how much room it has to work in and scales the screen size of the capture program accordingly. In my tests, it could record data up to five feet from the bar sensor, enough to cover most whiteboards properly. It works either horizontally or vertically.

Remote users connect over the Internet via Microsoft NetMeeting to the IP address of whatever computer is hosting the Mimio. NetMeeting is pretty easy to understand, though it does exclude users of non-Microsoft operating systems. A Java interface or a more browser-focused interface would open up Mimio to more users. On the plus side, remote users do not need Mimio-specific software to tap into a meeting.

The Mimio can work on other surfaces in a pinch. I tried a glass window, and it worked fine'a hint for traveling presenters who find no whiteboard in the conference room.

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