Smartest AG Room in the world??? Was: [AG-TECH] Electronic Whiteboards (fwd)

Rick Stevens stevens at
Sun Dec 5 15:17:45 CST 2004

did anything ever come of this ?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 06 Apr 2004 19:23:28 -0700
From: Brian Corrie <bcorrie at>
To: Markus Buchhorn <Markus.Buchhorn at>
Cc: Gurcharan S. Khanna <Gurcharan.S.Khanna at Dartmouth.EDU>,
     Robert Callaway <rob at>, AG_TECH <ag-tech at>
Subject: Smartest AG Room in the world??? Was: [AG-TECH] Electronic

Hello all,

We have a set of Smart Technologies smartboards in our AG node here at 
Simon Fraser University. Yes they are expensive, but they also provide a 
significantly different capability to that provided by the mimio. Both 
are interesting devices to use.

We have started to explore how to integrate these into the AG 
environment but have not gotten very far as of yet (really just starting 
to look at this). An obvious way is to just use a normal shared 
whiteboard app like wb and use the smartboard (or mimio) pens to 
interface with the app. This is somewhat clumsy as the smartboard pens 
have associated colors and set colors in different ways than the 
applications (the applications do not know about the color of the pens). 
The mimio will be the same here as it has pen colors... A second way is 
to use a native app (mimio or smart) that knows about the pens and their 
colors and use something like VNC to share the application to all sites. 
Finally, a native collaborative app that knows about the device and 
knows about collaboration would solve the problem. Not sure if such a 
thing exists for the mimio but Smart has an app called Bridgit 
( that does this. Note that it only requires the Smart 
technologies on one end (actually, I don't think it requires smart 
technologies at all) so it can be used fairly naturally to display and 
interact remotely even if you only have a "dumb" AG room. 8-)

Of course the next step is to integrate these types of tools and devices 
into the AG as services or shared apps in some form... This is where we 
would like to go in the future.

The benefit of something like Bridgit is that it allows remote users to 
interact with the drawing as well (not sure how it does turn-taking). 
Thus you could conceivably have a "Bridgit Service" that lived in a 
venue and one could use their tablet PC as a node with only that service 
running. Thus they would see and be able to interact with the 
application regardless of whether they were remote or not...

I have attached an image of the "smartest AG room in the world" if you 
are interested. The two left screens are plasmas with smart board 
overlays, the screen in the corner is a rear projected LCD smartboard, 
and the screen in the table is a plasma with a smart overlay (not used 
in this image). This room was originally modeled on the Stanford IRoom, 
with the AG collaboration capability added in to make it more 
"interesting". It may be the smartest AG room in the world, but 
sometimes it seems like you need to be a rocket scientist to make it all 
work 8-)

Markus, I would be interested in sharing some experiences here...



Markus Buchhorn wrote:

> At 00:40 31/03/2004 -0500, Gurcharan S. Khanna wrote:
>>i'm wondering how would this integration look? would the mimios (i presume you mean the large wall mounted ones) 
> The ones that you stick onto normal whiteboard surfaces (or similar), yes. The e-beams are about the size of your hand in an L-shape, the mimios more like a fat ruler. For those that haven't tried them, bear in mind, these are real-time pen-tracking whiteboards, not "printing-whiteboards" that output an image when you are finished.
>>be an input device to be rendered on the computer screen via wdb or the equivalent? 
> Fundamentally yes, but there are various issues. These are good points. It will vary a lot by application. 
> The default scenario is a whiteboard in a theatre that may or may not be visible to the local audience. But the digital output of the whiteboard goes up (in real-time) on the local display, and any remote displays in the same AG venue (say) - so every site gets the same view. In the case of most local audiences, this is better than they get with a pure hardware whiteboard - more than 5 rows back it gets small to see, so a large projected version will help. 
> In one theatre here we have no room at the front for a whiteboard, so it's now going on the side wall - hard to see for around half the audience, so up on screen will fix that. Turns out we'd solved a problem before we knew we had it :-). Downside is that you need to have a projector on when using the whiteboard locally to a room-full of people.
>>if so, only the local audience gets
>>the advantage of the full size whiteboard. 
> The projected whiteboard in most theatres would be bigger than a normal whiteboard, higher-contrast, and potentially better positioned for the whole audience to see. Regardless of being in the same room as the whiteboard or not (that's a protocol/transport issue ;-) dealing with packet-loss, latency, etc.). So I think the benefit is (potentially) even for all participants (it depends on your node-op).
>>i suppose smaller graphics tablets
>>could be used instead as individual input devices; and these are just perhaps
>>more convient than drawing with the mouse directly into wb. 
> Exactly right - mice are not great for sharing round a table, or for drawing quick diagrams, especially with the click-to-draw mode for 2D mice that pens do automatically (being 3D aware :-) ).
> I'd love to integrate the electronic whiteboards with tablet-PCs and other software whiteboards, so they are all I/O devices to the same "space" or content. 
>>while all these
>>scenarios would work, i guess i'm thinking about the different experience had
>>by the local audience v. the virtual audience.
> And it gets worse :-) The astronomers want to be able to share their whiteboard, and see other people's whiteboards. Fine. Then they wanted them to be co-planar so they could write on each others whiteboards... I can imagine some tricks with projectors and drawable surfaces, but I can't use that in many theatres (rear-projection is needed, to avoid shadowing). You can put the tracker onto a monitor or LCD if you want though.
> I can also see issues where you have groups huddled around a whiteboard at multiple sites, i.e. where more than one person at a site is writing on a whiteboard, and they all also want to see the other sites' whiteboards. This is something that SmartBoards I think can do very well - the local writing surface and the remote display are in the same plane. But they cost 5 times as much and don't scale up to the size or resolution that these whiteboards do.
> Interestingly, the electronic whiteboards can also have digital "buttons" on them that cause "something to happen", e.g. print-display, wipe-display, save-display, etc. with no ink going onto the whiteboard/display. That leads into thinking about a "whiteboard" (or similar surface) with "pens" as a user-interface for other tools, e.g. the AG venue client, or your display manager, or your word-processor, or something else. Poor man's tablet-PC (6ft by 4ft :-) ), or a sort-of new way of interacting with large displays? Variation on the idea of free-air mice.
> But fundamentally, our users initially just want to scribble on a surface to explain a point during a talk, and have the other site see it clearly, better than a camera pointed at (and failing to focus on) a normal whiteboard, or a document camera watching your hand. That's our first priority. Anything after that.... <shrug>. There's a lot of potential.
> If people have comments, ideas, etc please let me know. 
> Cheers,
>         Markus
> Markus Buchhorn, ANU Internet Futures Group,       |Ph: +61 2 61258810
> Markus.Buchhorn at, mail: Bldg #108 CS&IT  |Fx: +61 2 61259805
> Australian National University, Canberra 0200 Aust.|Mob: 0417 281429
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