GCN LAB REVIEWS
Remote tents can morph into war rooms with this rugged display system
Components let you create an interactive whiteboard on the fly
- By John Breeden II
- Feb 08, 2011
The Interactive Visual Display System from HDT Technologies is a series of innovative components that, when assembled, create a method of setting up a rugged, interactive whiteboard in the field — even an actual field.
The GCN Lab tested the IVDS with a 60-inch screen, which came in a rugged soft case that weighed 84 pounds. There is another unit available with a 100-inch screen, which adds four more pounds. And there is an option for an ultra-rugged hard case for extremely harsh environments, but that adds another 50 pounds, taking it out of the realm of possibility for one person to comfortably transport the system. The soft case we tested has handles on the side and looks like a rectangular box. Two people can easily move it, and one person can also lug it, if necessary.
Inside the box, there are all the components needed to create an interactive whiteboard on the fly without special tools or much training.
The base of the IVDS is a metal tripod that is anodized to resist dust buildup and corrosion. A level bubble and adjustable legs make setting up the screen on a less-than-perfect surface a fairly quick operation.
After the base is in place, the screen snaps onto the frame. When snapped down, the screen’s surface is tight as a drum.
Interactive Visual Display System
Pros: Can be set up in a few minutes; rugged case; creates interactive workspace.
Cons: The projector itself isn’t rugged once it’s out of the box.
Ease of use: A+
Government price: $11,770 for the 60-inch screen as tested, $14,829 for the 100-inch screen unit
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A Hatachi CP-A52 projector accompanies the system. It was chosen because it has a removable filter that protects the air intake vent. The IVDS includes an extra filter and extra projector bulb for the CP-A52, so users won’t be out of luck if they need one of those parts.
The CP-A52 sits on a little metal tray attached behind the screen. It’s a short-throw, rear-projection model, so the LCD projector is out of the way of a presenter. Because it’s locked onto a tray, you probably won’t have to make any adjustments to your image because it forces the projector into the optimal spot to create a focused picture.
The IVDS also has conquered distance because standard video signals that normally run in VGA or DMI cables are converted for use inside a CAT 5 cable when going from a signal source to the screen. They are then converted back to a standard video cable at the LCD projector. Normally, a signal will break down after about 20 feet along a normal video cable. But CAT 5 cables don’t have that restriction and can run signals for hundreds of feet without degradation. That means whatever system is driving a presentation doesn’t need to be up against the projector.
After the IVDS theater is deployed, you can transform it into an interactive whiteboard. You can make that happen using the eBeam Edge from Luidia, an ultrasonic sensor bar that snaps in place beside the IVDS screen. After being set up, the sensor bar can record the motions of a special pen and performs much like a normal interactive whiteboard.
Because your IVDS might be deployed in a sensitive area, the Edge is designed to leave no footprint on a host computer. All the software needed to drive the Edge is contained on a dongle that is inserted into any standard USB port. It does not need to access the computer in any way or have administrator rights to work. And because USB cords are like video cables in that they have somewhat short distance restrictions, you can convert your signal to a CAT 5 cable so your source computer doesn't need to be close to the screen.
The Edge software has some nice interactive features, such as a workspace program that lets users e-mail meeting invites and send images from within the confines of the whiteboard environment. Of course, users will need to connect to a network to use those advanced features, but nothing is installed on the computer during use.
When using the whiteboard, users will need to remember that the screen isn’t hard like most whiteboards. When you push down on the screen to draw an image, it gives a bit on the 60-inch one we tested, and it probably gives even more on the larger 100-inch screen. That did not seem to have any adverse effect on the Edge but does distort the image slightly while the screen is moved, so presenters will need to keep that in mind.
Although the IVDS case and arguably the stand it sits on are rugged, the projector at the heart of the system is not. Dropping the projector or exposing it to shock or moisture while outside the travel case can harm it like any other LCD unit. The filter protecting the intake is about an inch thick and should help combat the effects of stray dust. But in every other respect, the CP-A52 is just as fragile as any other projector. So you'll need to be careful with it.
When the presentation is over, the IVDS is surprisingly easy to break down and put back into its case. The screen that snapped easily into place over the rugged frame also simply snaps back off. The legs fold up, and the tray that holds the projector lifts up and out of place. Each piece goes back into its own foam container inside the protective case and can be ready to move in less than five minutes.
Harsh environments, or at least inhospitable ones such as a tent in the middle of nowhere, normally would be the last place one would expect to find a theater, much less an interactive presentation tool or a war room. But the IVDS opens new options for operating in remote or harsh conditions so that few locations need to go without a powerful command and control center.
The IVDS earns a Reviewer’s Choice designation for bringing together the best components to tackle the problems faced by presenters in remote and even hostile areas.
HDT Engineered Technologies, www.hdtglobal.com
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.