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Apple Patent May Mean Doom for Smartboard Industry

A new set of patent applications from Apple could place the tech behemoth in a position to grab a sizeable share of the educational Smartboard market.

Tech news site CNet reported last week that “the application ‘Projected display shared workspaces’ was filed in February 2010 and pulled up this morning by Patently Apple. It outlines a system for taking what's on screen and projecting it onto a nearby surface.” In short, all of Apple’s mobile devices—including the iPod, iPad and iPhone—would be equipped with a tiny projector capable of rendering a full-sized, cinema-quality image on any flat surface.

While Apple has long been rumored to be dabbling in ultra-small projector technology, the new set of patents reveals something that could be a boon to school districts’ bottom lines but a detriment to the educational Smartboard industry. Building off the current generation of motion-sensitive interfaces found in video game systems like the Nintendo Wii and the Playstation Move, the Apple projector would react to the presenter’s movements by manipulating what is displayed on the screen. A teacher could flip through PowerPoint slides by swiping against the wall, or rotate a pie chart by “grabbing and rotating” it. Video could be played, paused and restarted by “pressing” projected buttons.

This would put school districts that are in the process of updating classroom technology in a position to choose between a $200 iPod or a $10,000 Smartboard. Any district with a tech budget of a few hundred dollars would be able to display video, images, presentations and spreadsheets, all of which the presenter could fully manipulate via hand motions.

No specs have been released about the next generation of mobile devices from Apple, which are slated to be debuted in the coming weeks. Experts do not expect them to include the projector technology. CNet reported, however, that Alps Electric announced last week they have created a new lens, measuring just under a millimeter squared. The company plans to produce those units in bulk by the end of next year, meaning that the 2012 generation of Apple products could very well incorporate this technology.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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