Interactive Whiteboards and Alternatives

IWB & Interactive Tools Information & Buying Guide

  1. What is a Smart Board or Interactive Whiteboard (IWB)?
  2. Interactive Pens (Virtual IWB)
  3. Interactive Projectors (Virtual IWB)
  4. Interactive Tablets
  5. Other Things to Consider

What is a Smart Board or Interactive Whiteboard (IWB)?
IWBs or “a Smart Boards” (SmartBoardtm is actually just a trademarked brand name of IWBs, there are many MFRs such as 3M, DYMO (Mimio ), Hitachi, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and more) is a white or Marker board that has been designed and manufactured to be projected on by a projector and used as an input device. IWBs typically utilize one of the following technologies:

  • Resistive touch
  • Infrared (IR) touch (also called IR scan)
  • Electromagnetic Pens
  • Touch free Camera based with either touch, infrared or electromagnetic Technology built-in. 
IWBs when used with a projector and computer allows the user to interact with their presentation right on the whiteboard as well as control their computer from right on the whiteboard (which is typically mounted on the wall or on a rolling floor stand) sort of like a giant graphics tablet. IWBs are great for teaching and collaboration as they allow you to annotate and capture notes during a presentation or even videoconferencing. If used with an audience response system the presenter can directly get feedback by polling their audience or giving quizzes during their presentation.

Interactive Projectors
There are some projectors with built-in Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) technology which allows the presenter to use the projector screen surface or whatever they are projecting on, even just a painted wall, like an interactive. Both Epson and InFocus were the first to bring this technology to market (InFocus was this 1st to bring it to market in late 2009 but Epson was not far behind with their solution in spring 2010) but now there are units from Optoma, ViewSonic, Hitachi and as well. Some of the solutions like Epson’s are pen based which means you need to be at the board or screen and others are wand based which means you can interact from almost anywhere in the room within 30 to 40’. Like interactive white boards these solutions work similarly to Graphics tablets or optical mice in that they work of a digital grid. Once the projector and pen or wand are calibrated together the user can interact with or annotate, create and more with whatever they are presenting.

Interactive (Touch) Displays
Touch capable LCD or Plasmas are offered by most of the display MFRs like Samsung, NEC, Sony, HP, Planar, ViewSonic and ELO. This displays work like any other Large format display (30” or larger) but they have the added feature of touch screen just like your iPhone or Droid. The largest single display is 82” offered by Samsung but you can also utilize multiple smaller screens to make an interactive video wall. For instance 4 55” touch screens in a 2 high x 2 wide tile would give you a 110” diagonal touch screen.  The combinations are endless.

Some of the MFRs even offer units specifically for education as alternatives to IWBs like Samsung, but in theory any Touch monitor can give you the same capabilities as a traditional IWB.

Interactive whiteboard devices/solutions
There are numerous add-on systems that are both pen based and tablet based that can be used with existing projectors to allow you to interact with your presentations. Some of these require you to be at the whiteboard and some work from anywhere. Ebeam from Luidia has a device you mount to a traditional white board and using a Ebeam pen interactive on the whiteboard. The Q300 Mirrorboard is a 10” wireless screen or slate that allows you to see what is being projected or on your Large format display and interact with it from up to 30’ away from the receiver hooked to your computer. This allows teachers to walk around the room and not even have to face the board to see what they are doing. There  are many different types of interactive whiteboard devices available from Mfrs like Avermedia, Luida, Optoma, Hitachi and more.