Device Review: eBeam

I was lucky enough to come across this device a few months ago. The eBeam is one of those devices that you go “wow, I want one”. Even more so the case when you send a lot of time in front of a whiteboard like I do. When I first got a demo of the eBeam I was very impressed. It does have its own software suite of tools which has some overlap with Lync features but it can also be a great add on to Lync.

When you see most white boarding technology or smart boards it all looks great and works great but there is one big thing that will stop you in your tracks. Sticker shock. Usually whiteboard systems are expensive but this is where eBeam has a big advantage over most of its competitors. At around $900 (USB version) its price turns it into a commodity device rather than a capital purchase that most of these technologies require.

The eBeam comes with two options. First is a stylus option that can be used with a projected image. The second option is whiteboard markers with eraser that allows it to be used with any standard white board. Pictured below is the complete kit. Not very big and extremely portable.


The eBeam sensor and stylus shown below is used with a projected image of your desktop and basically turns the projected image into an interactive workspace. This is great for working with the white boarding feature of Lync. It also works really well with annotating PowerPoint slides .Further down you will see a picture of me working with a PowerPoint presentation shared with Lync and the eBeam Stylus. The stylus can also perform mouse functions with a button on the side.



The picture below show the whiteboard markers and eraser. To use the white board markers requires the use of eBeam Capture software, which when used with Lync can be shared as an application and works well.


How the eBeam works:

eBeam works by means of a combination of Infra-red and ultrasonic technology embedded into the pens, and an eBeam receiver to translate the movements of these signals and convert them into mouse strokes on a PC or Mac.

When an eBeam pen first touches the board it emits a flash of infra-red which is picked up on a sensor in the center of the eBeam receiver. The pen when being used then emits a series of ultrasonic signals which can be heard as a slight ‘buzzing sound’; this signal is received on the poles of the receiver. The eBeam unit then calculates the difference in time between the two signals and triangulates the position of the stylus or marker sleeve on the pre-calibrated area. The principle is not too dissimilar to that of a child counting the difference in time between lightening and thunder to locate the center of a storm. (Source)

I like to use the eBeam inside of a Lync session when doing presentations. Although the whiteboard features with the markers is handy I find the stylus with a projected desktop image using the inbuilt features of Lync to be the best combination. I mentioned some overlap with Lync earlier. The eBeam software does come with its own sharing and recording functions. I haven’t tried this out; I prefer to use Lync for sharing and collaboration because the eBeam software is focused mainly on the whiteboard experience which may present some limitations in a corporate environment. As an example it lacks dial in PSTN capabilities and video.

Combining eBeam white boarding capabilities with Lync makes for a unique experience which can also include video & audio conferencing, IM, presence and web collaboration. It also means if you have an existing Lync infrastructure there is no need to stand up a second eBeam infrastructure to get the advantages of eBeam.

As far as UC is concerned the whiteboard is the forgotten legacy platform. I often hear that UC is hard to define and it means different things to different people but I see no reason to leave the whiteboard out of the collaboration experience. People use whiteboards every day and I am sure that nearly every conference room you walk into has one. So think about how much lost data has been on that whiteboard. At $900, the eBeam certainly makes better utilization of the whiteboard a far more attainable proposition.

Here are some reviews:

Short preview of some of the capabilities
Longer review, steps through setup and use

Comments welcomed.


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