Multi-touch tables were one of the big themes of BETT 2009 and I think they will be even bigger and cheaper for BETT 2010. I have to say I like the idea of multi-touch tables and some of the children that I saw using them at demo during BETT were naturally collaborating, communicating and learning. I know it’s not just the hardware that’s important and I was impressed at the range of innovative software that is staring to be developed for such products. I can see a real use for this type of development in education, but I think the costs will be very hard to justify at the moment for most schools.
In no particular order, here are some of the interactive tables that I saw at the show:
A really simple idea, that I had already seen the prototype of at the 2008 Scottish Learning Festival. The RM class table combines a Hitachi ultra short throw projector, an eBeam interactive whiteboard system and a portable desk specially designed to allow horizontal projection. Although the system is not multi-touch. I don’t think it will be long until e-beam release this technology. The picture above shows Google Earth being used with the system.
I had heard a lot about this product before going to the BETT show and I was keen to see it in action. I was very impressed with what I saw. The SMART table claims to be the world’s first multitouch, multiuser table for primary education. It is an interactive learning centre that lets students get hands-on with collaborative activities.
The software behind the SMART table also seemed very clever. There were lots of parts of it that were highly customisable. I would love to try one of these devices out with one of my local primary schools and I will be interested to see how a secondary version of the same product develops with time.
The VIPRO Interactive table gets the prize for being the largest Interactive table that a saw at the BETT show. There were two versions of the table. One that used eBeam technology, similar to the RM Interactive class table and one that used a different type of multi-touch interface (I’m not quite sure how it worked!). The big difference (apart from size and cost!) between the VIPRO and the RM Interactive was that all of the VIPRO products are rear projection straight onto reinforced safety glass.
This means that children are able to access all four sides of the table – as one of the sides is not taken up by the short throw projector (as this is under the table).
When I was having a play with this table during the last day of the show – I was impressed with how sensitive it was and once again the emerging range of software looked fantastic.
Surface is without a doubt the ultimate multitouch table (it should be at the price!). At the time of the BETT show there were only two in the country and they were both at BETT. One was on the Microsoft Stand and one was in the RM Schools of the Future Area. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to play with the one in the RM area.
What can I say? It has very smooth applications, its intuitive, it’s clever, it interacts with mobile devices, it knows what side of the table you are on and it has huge potential to help you with their learning.
For more surface videos visit the Microsoft Surface Site.
The big question is who is going to be the first manufacturer to lend me one of these resources for a really robust education trail?