Thunder Takes PolyVision To Demo

PolyVision Corp. launched its Thunder Virtual Flipchart System, a visual collaborative communication tool, at the Demo 2006 conference in Phoenix, Ariz. (Courtesy: TechWeb)

February 7, 2006

2 Min Read
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PolyVision Corp., a Steelcase company, has launched Thunder Virtual Flipchart System, a visual collaborative communication tool, at the Demo 2006 conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

The platform connects meeting rooms and remote laptop users with a satellite modem, Internet connection or phone line. "Group or collaborative computing requires a walk-up-and-use experience," said Michael Dunn, PolyVision's president and chief executive officer on Tuesday. "Fifty percent of meetings are impromptu, unplanned. So if you're planning on providing a collaborative technology, you'd better have one that people don't have to plan to use."

Thunder Virtual Flipchart System has an interactive easel-like plasma screen that looks similar to a whiteboard. The screen has icons in a toolbar across the top to represent pages in the presentation and rooms that join the meeting.

The group easel allows input and sharing of any media image, analog or digital. The meeting facilitator can jot down notes and drawings onto a page with a stylus or by using a finger.

Multiple pages are projected onto the wall in high resolution, allowing the information to be visible to all meeting participants. "You pick and choose the pages you want projected by dragging them into the main area, but there is no limit as to the number of pages that can be part of the session," Dunn said.With the touch of an icon, participants from other sessions, classrooms or even countries can join a session and view the posted materials, exchange data and share ideas, regardless of physical location.

Remote users can link into the meeting with the correct Internet protocol address through any computer. A built-in security feature prompts the facilitator through multiple questions before allowing the remote user to link into the meeting.

The information is then viewed as thumbnails on the remote user's computer. "You can have 10, 15 or 100 rooms joined together," Dunn said. "You also can have people log into the meeting as a participant through their laptops with an IP address."

Dunn said the system is simple to operate. But the collaboration tool doesn't come cheap. The cost is about $100,000 to equip a room that can project between eight and 10 images simultaneously on the wall, Dunn said.

A black-box computer drives the system and plasma easel. A series of projectors are typically mounted on the ceiling to display information. Two images per projector are displayed. Dunn recommends four projectors if there is enough wall space. The Web-based software runs on Windows and Flash Macromedia.PolyVision, a 52-year-old company acquired by Steelcase Inc. in November 2001, generated about $175 million in 2005. The company employs 1,150 globally, with headquarters in Suwanee, Ga.

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