BoxLight can make any projector interactive

Interactive projection equipment is extremely useful for dynamically expressing ideas to a large group of people. It is usually a good, cost-effective alternative to huge monitors that do the same thing. The main drawback in getting such a projector is that, chances are, you already have a regular projector. The potential cost savings are eaten up by replacing an otherwise perfectly good unit.

The OutWrite 1.4 by BoxLight heads off unnecessary replacement costs by working with the projector you already have. Once the setup is complete you can start interacting with the projected image in a variety of ways.

One of the things that most impressed us with the OutWrite was that it came with two different kinds of pens, each powered by batteries. One was the size of a regular ball-point pen, and activated by pressing the point on the screen. The other was more of a pointer or wand that was 22 inches long and was activated by pushing a small button on the side. The latter could be used on large screens, or in presentations where it was important for the presenter to stay out of the way of the projected image as much as possible.

BoxLight OutWrite 1.4

Pros: Good interface, short and long pens.
Cons: Setup is time intensive, a bit pricey.
Performance: A
Ease of Use: B
Features: B+
Value: B
Price: $598

This projector brings high-def video to life

The setup for the OutWrite is a bit labor-intensive. The lens of the device has got to be positioned either directly above or directly below the projector’s lens for optimal effect. This can mean simply placing it on the table in front of the projector, as in our test. If the projector is in a ceiling-mount model, then you will need to use the included bracket to attach the OutWrite to it.

Then we connected the OutWrite via USB cable to the computer that was outputting to the projector. We put the program CD in the optical drive and had to copy the files manually to the computer in order to run the program. We didn’t see why the disc couldn’t have an installation executable, or, better yet, why the OutWrite device itself didn’t have the files in flash memory, since it is connected with via USB.

Once the program was running, we had to go through a few more steps before it was ready to use. To make sure that the OutWrite could see the entire projection area, we needed to slide the sensor out of the way of a webcam and open the Preview Window on the computer. Once we moved the OutWrite to the correct position we locked it down, closed the preview window, and slid the sensor back into place. Then we had to set the distance the projector was from the wall we were using as a screen. This took a little finagling and guesswork, but we put it on the setting we needed. The last thing we needed to do was calibrate the OutWrite device by activating a pen at the screen at 13 different points. At this point the OutWrite was ready for use.

The interface for switching the pen to different functions was pretty extensive. By default it would start as a mouse cursor that would follow the pen around and left-click on things when the pen was activated. Double-clicking was done by pressing the pen in twice quickly, like you’d expect. You could also have the pen double-click or right-click with one press by selecting those tools on the toolbar. After doing either once, the interface is smart enough to return to the regular mouse function.

We were pleased to see the variety of pen thicknesses and color options. There was even a highlighter mode that would pretty much do what you expect. If you needed to get rid of an errant stroke, the eraser mode makes that possible. We were also impressed by the ability to switch instantly between pen and mouse mode by pressing the pen when it was outside the projection area.

If users are exceptionally pleased with how their pen use turned out, there is an option to save a screenshot as a graphics file on the computer. This could be very useful for letting people know what happened at a meeting they had missed.

BoxLight has set the retail price of the OutWrite 1.4 at $598. Although this is higher than we would have expected, it is less expensive than most projectors with interactivity built-in, in some cases half the price. So this price is still within the range of what makes sense, especially if you have a really nice projector that you would otherwise be disposing of. Of course, if you used this to provide interactivity to several projectors, it could definitely save you more money, but the time-consuming setup might make you reconsider that strategy.

BoxLight, www.boxlight.com

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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