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I'm sure that most shops use a standard whiteboard or a more fancier "glass-board" to discuss ideas during a meeting. After the meeting, people will usually take photos of the artifacts using a point-and-shoot camera and then e-mail the digital photo to all the participants.

I'm thinking of buying a really huge LCD screen support to facilitate discussion. This LCD Screen will be outfitted with a Multi-touch "filter" that will be connected to a PC via the USB port. The PC will be connected to the screen via the HDMI port. The PC will run on a standard Windows 7 installation.

Instead of writing/drawing on a whiteboard using a marker, the participants will use their fingers to draw/write stuff on the screen surface. Whatever input the "filter" receives, it will be sent back to the PC. So the application that has the focus is the one responsible for making sense of the input. I'm thinking of using "PAINT" for now. After the discussion, the "canvas" will be saved as an image and forwarded to participants e-mail.

^That's the easy/boring part.

Here's the cool part: We can write an application that will fully utilize the Multi-touch technology to facilitate discussion more effectively. I'm thinking of writing apps like those in the Microsoft Surface computing videos. We can also outfit the PC with a camera and use facial recognition technology to automatically figure out who the participants are so we can provide a single "Distribute a copy of this canvas to the participants" button.


  1. Has anyone used a gigantic multi-touch screen over a whiteboard to facilitate discussion?
  2. If yes, how successful was it?
  3. Are there already software available today that makes these things possible?
  4. Do you know a vendor/provider that provides a complete solution for this kind of things?


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points 3 & 4 probably better raised as a seperate question on superuser. –  TZHX May 12 '11 at 12:26

6 Answers 6

Keep it simple, use a projector and cheap pen tracking

There is a marvellous TED talk on Wii hacks that describes how to use the Wii remote technology to track an infra-red LED incorporated into a pen. It works a treat and costs next to nothing. All the drawings (including erased ones) are held on the laptop running the projector for easy dissemination onto the company wiki.

  • No expensve multi-touch whotsit required.
  • No greasy finger marks on your lovely touch display
  • Easy portability to other meeting rooms
  • Variable size screen
  • Switch from "whiteboard drawing" to YouTube demo etc
  • Free and open source starting point
  • Kudos from your fellow developers
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+1 for Johnny Lee. That guy knows how to build good ideas well. –  StuperUser May 12 '11 at 14:49
+1 for the use of whotsit double points if you can use it on english.stackexchange.com –  Gareth Davis May 12 '11 at 15:04

I've used solutions to this for at least 10 years. (Mimio was first available in 1997 )

There are a couple of problems that aren't too well addressed as far as I've seen.

  1. Resolution: a whiteboard with markers has incredible resolution. You can insert and write things very small. To get this sort of resolution in a display can be painfully expensive. (Imagine how many index cards you can could fit readably onto a monitor's worth of resolution versus a real world whiteboard.)
  2. Responsiveness: Pauses while the software catches up to what you draw are painful. It's like typing when your machine is lagging, but worse.

I haven't used any devices in the last couple years, so these may be better addressed these days, but from what I've seen, the promise is still more than the experience.

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+1 for Mimio - I nearly had a contract with those guys –  Gary Rowe May 12 '11 at 15:19

At my community college we had a few Smart Whiteboards. They were great! Basically they are white boards, with a projector. The whiteboard detects styluses (you can even have different colors for each stylus). Sends that to the computer which projects it on the whiteboard where you're writing. Overall this gives the effect of writing on a real whiteboard.

For class, we were able to focus on what was being presented, instead of trying to copy it all down. We recently got one at work, and it's been wonderful too. We use it not only to distribute the notes taken, but also collaborate with our world wide sites. Additionally they provide a SDK. Something worth looking at.

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+1 - I was out of school when these came out, but I've heard a lot about them. Seems like the ideal solution to me. –  Morgan Herlocker May 12 '11 at 19:52
My community college had them, but when I went to my next class for the day at university it was a chalk board :) The smart whiteboards are essentially the commercial version of the Wii hack. –  Byte56 May 12 '11 at 22:44

Yes, I've used such a screen. I cannot however say that it was a that better a feeling than on a classical whiteboard. It sure looks nice on first glance but really isn't that much help after all.

But that might be due to fact how I use a whiteboard. I like to draw a lot and erase a lot, use it more to channel my thoughts and to temporarily store ideas. When the discussion is over often (not always) I simply do not need the output any more because it was just a tool used during the idea finding process - not a real result storage tool.

For me it boils down to the question: What do you expect from such a device?

I do think that in areas where the output is more important there's a lot more to such systems, when you'll be able to directly store the image to some location without having to photograph it and then make that result available.

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I have not but where I work we have discussed many different options including this.

A couple of thoughts we had on this are

  1. Drawing and more so writing text with fingers can feel awkward so getting a touchscreen that works with a stylus is a good idea.
  2. Erasing on a touch screen just never feels as right as erasing on a real whiteboard.
  3. You can get a much better level of detail by using a whiteboard then a touch screen.
  4. selecting colors is more intuitive on a whiteboard than a touchscreen. Eraser is another fine point since to select the tool on the touchscreen you have to click a button but with a whiteboard you just keep it in your other hand
  5. Getting a drawing pad that is essentially a laptop sized touch screen may be a good alternative. The plus side is it is much cheaper as it can be used with a projector to get a good viewing screen for everyone but the downside is anything a touchscreen has plus the small size limits 1 person at the "board" at a time.
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Well, for some of your comments like the eraser., "Gestures" can help. –  Ian May 12 '11 at 13:33

A pretty good half way house would be the white boards with built in scanners. Plug in your USB stick, press the scan button, wait for it to scan, take the USB stick to a PC and share or e-mail it to the participants.

Not as much kudos as some of the options here, but (I suspect) rather cheaper and rather higher resolution than your average digital photo of the whiteboard. *8')

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