November 2012: Playing Smart

When designing A/V systems for educational spaces, we often receive requests for “Smart Boards” or other interactive displays.  As technology progresses, these relatively new developments are perfectly understandable criteria for a cutting-edge classroom, but many factors must be considered when incorporating these features into an efficient design. Read on to learn more about the various ways to deploy interactive technologies.

Before making any decisions, questions like the following should be asked:

  • Is the display large enough and bright enough to be visible and legible from every seat?
  • Is the horizontal viewing angle appropriate for the width of the room and audience?
  • Does the display need wireless connectivity for laptops, building networks or mobile devices?
  • Would the end user prefer to annotate with a proprietary stylus (which can be lost), or be able to mark the surface with their fingers or other objects?
  • What are the maintenance requirements for the proposed display?
Photo by SMART Board

“Smart Board” (which refers to a specific manufacturer) is used as a generic term for a short-throw projector and annotative surface. There are many varieties to choose from in today’s market, but they all seek to facilitate interaction between a class and presented material. As popular and convenient as they are, annotative displays are not an appropriate solution for every classroom.

The biggest limitation to Smart Boards is their size, as their height is restricted to a person’s reach. Because of this, standard smart boards are too small to support legible text throughout most classrooms. They also face a mounting dilemma: in order to allow the entire surface to be viewable by the back rows of the classroom, the display needs to be mounted higher than a person in a wheelchair can access. In doing this, the display can no longer be called ADA compliant, as shown below.

For existing classrooms with standard dry-erase boards, a compatible short-throw projector can be added to project directly onto the installed surface.  Annotative displays can be further separated by their annotation method: some require a manufacturer-specific stylus, while others can recognize fingers, pens and similar objects. Additionally, some electronic whiteboards can also function as a passive marker board. Flat panel displays can include annotative surfaces as well; however, these are typically more limited by size than projection systems.

Image by Panasonic

There are other technologies that utilize wireless devices like iPads to connect with an A/V system. This allows the presenter to use the wireless device to control A/V system components like a projector or screen as well as notate on the iPad, sending content wirelessly to the display.

With all the options available for annotative displays, finding an appropriate solution for your project can be intimidating. By realizing the limitations of these technologies and visualizing the end-user’s needs for the space, we help you design a display system that incorporates the newest technology without sacrificing visibility or accessibility.

Relevant Projects We Have Worked On:

Campbell Soup World Headquarters – Camden, NJ

Cedar Creek High School – Egg Harbor City, NJ

Curtis Institute of Music Lenfest Hall – Philadelphia, PA

Lawrenceville School Father’s Building
– Lawrenceville, NJ

Lockheed Martin Program Review Center – Mount Laurel, NJ

The Agnes Irwin School – Bryn Mawr, PA

Upper Dublin High School – Fort Washington, PA

Wilkes University Science Health and Engineering Building – Wilkes Barre, PA

Happy Thanksgiving from Metropolitan Acoustics!

December 2012: Deck the Walls with Acoustic Panels
October 2012: Up On the Rooftop