Face it, the form factor of most projectors hasn’t changed much over the past few decades. Most projectors subscribe to the “rectangular box” design, sometimes spicing it up with white AND black options, oh my! Enter the Epson EV-105… If you think it looks more like a track lighting fixture, you aren’t wrong. This projector is designed to seamlessly blend into retail, hospitality and event spaces, showrooms and museums, adding a high-quality accent image where needed. The key to this device is that it’s discreet… and doesn’t look like a clunky projector, when aesthetics matter.

General Functionality
Overall, we found the device to be designed from the ground up for an easy ceiling install, with all the necessary security features. The 2,000-lumen image was crisp and easily configurable. The built-in media player was easy enough to install media and test (after some initial head-scratching), and the expansive connectivity options (wired and wireless networking, HDMI and SD card inputs) put us at ease. During testing, the device delivered on what it was designed to do.

Where the Epson EV-105 shines is with creative folks. Want to project a face on a mannequin for a retail install? Interested in simulating water on the floor of a museum install? Curious if you can create the sensation of fall leaves? This is your device if the form fits your needs.

The Epson EV-105 makes less sense when your project has the space for a traditional projector or doesn’t need the unique form factor. You can purchase a 5,000-lumen projector for roughly the same price. Sure, it won’t easily mount on a ceiling without a good bit of work, it doesn’t blend seamlessly with the surroundings, and also doesn’t have a built-in media player… but sometimes you don’t need those features. Also, the resolution of the Epson EV-105 1280 x 800, which is fine for artistic projects, but maybe somewhat lackluster when it comes to spreadsheets and PowerPoint. Overall, it’s a very cool product and fits a very specific niche.

Epson Demonstrates Pro L1300U

This past week, Epson provided an overview of their Pro L1300U projector at the Technology Engagement Center. The projector is an impressive 8,000-lumen beast, specifically designed for medium to large environments where image and color accuracy matters.

The laser light engine is designed to provide 20,000 hours of near maintenance-free service. If you’ve ever seen an AV technician’s eyes light up when they talk about laser projectors… it’s due to the reality that they wouldn’t need to service the projector for nearly 10+ years under normal usage scenarios. For example, if a projector is used six hours a day, five days a week, for 50 weeks a year, that’s about 1500 hours a year. Divide 1500 by the expected 20,000 life of the laser engine, and we’re looking at about 13 and a half years! Now if we could only get the faculty, staff, and students to turn off the projectors (half kidding).

Key Features:
Image Quality: While the projector has a native WUXGA resolution of 1920×1200, it also has a “4K enhancement feature.” Wait… don’t close your browser just yet. I’m generally suspicious of such “marketing-ese,” but it actually seemed to work as advertised. The image seemed to be somewhere between 1920×1200 and a 4K image in terms of quality, so chalk me up to impressed.

Service: Epson offers a good service plan for high use cases. If something should fail with the projector while it’s under warranty, you can get a replacement drop-shipped overnight. That’s music to my AV technician’s ears and sets Epson apart from some of the low-end projector manufacturers.

Lens Options: Simply put, Epson has an impressive array of unique lens options for their projectors. Access the right lens can make or break an AV install in a unique space.

Chameleon Mode: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could swap out your non-Epson projector with a new Epson, and not need to reprogram the AV system? Yes, this is a feature of Epson’s current generation of projectors. You can set the projector to respond to commands from a number of other projector manufacturers. Considering the cost of having an AV system reprogrammed, this could be a great cost-saving measure if you aren’t happy with your current projector or want to test an Epson in your space before purchasing.

As the price of laser projectors fall, Epson continues to lead the pack in many ways and their “sneak peek” roadmap seemed to reinforce that opinion. We look forward to seeing their new offerings soon.

AV Networking and Security

The AV-focused Halloween Duke Digital Media Community (DDMC) session on networking and security highlighted just how complex the AV ecosystem has become. As mentioned in the session, ten years ago, networking and security weren’t a primary consideration when commissioning an AV system. Most systems of that era either lacked basic networking connectivity or were isolated to local area network that was usually disconnected from the larger University network and Internet. An AV system was installed, tested and replaced 6-12 years later with little worry about networking or security.

My, how times have changed. It isn’t uncommon for a modern AV system to have multiple network connections. Touch panels, control processors, and switchers are routinely connected to the network to leverage the enterprise backbone and to provide monitoring opportunities. But, with that connectivity comes additional considerations, especially when considering that audio and video of a sensitive nature may be transmitted over the network.

Now that your device is connected to Duke’s network, some thought must be put into the location of the AV system on the network, as not all locations are created equally. Obviously, you wouldn’t want your AV system sitting on a publically accessible segment of the network. This would open the device up to constant attack and almost certainly ensure that your device would eventually be compromised. So, you should place the equipment on an internal virtual local area network (VLAN). But, the hardware shouldn’t be placed on just any internal VLAN. It’s best to isolate all of your AV to a unique “AV VLAN” to ensure that your devices aren’t receiving communication from non-AV hardware (other computers, printers, curious students, etc.). If your head is starting to spin, don’t worry. The good folks at Duke OIT Networking are available to help.

Security, with regards to AV systems, is a bit more complicated. First, as mentioned above, it’s important to place an AV device in a “safer” area of the network. This will reduce the number of individuals capable of connecting to your device from billions to thousands. Second, it’s important to ensure your device is running the latest firmware and all non-essential services are disabled (FTP, Telnet, etc.). Third, as the device is being installed, scan the devices for open services, weak passwords, and known vulnerabilities. Fortunately, Duke has a tool specifically designed for this task (and can be made available to Duke AV technicians and managers).

So, where to start?
It would be impossible to write a DDMC article about all of the different facets of AV networking and security, so we are working on a Knowledge Base article (coming soon!) to help AV technicians, engineers, and managers with the above-mentioned topics. The Knowledge Base is sure to grow, and we look forward to collaborating with the various groups on campus.

HP Sprout Pro G2

HP visited Duke’s Technology Engagement Center (TEC) this morning to provide an overview of their Sprout Pro G2. Describing the Sprout is a tricky thing to do considering the unique capabilities of the device. As HP was quick to mention, there really isn’t anything else like Sprout on the market, and until seeing it function, I assumed they were exaggerating… I was wrong.

At the heart of the system is a robust all-in-one Windows 10 computer (i7 processor, advanced graphics, 16GB of RAM, wireless keyboard/mouse, etc.), all the things you’d expect in a higher-end computer. What makes the Sprout unique is that it has built-in dual screens, one consisting of a traditional monitor and the other being a downward facing projector. The projector projects on a touch sensitive pad (HP calls it the Touch Mat) that easily connects to the base of the unit. The device defaults to extended desktop (one on top of the other), which can take a moment for novice users to fully understand. Both screens are touch sensitive, but the Touch Mat can also be used in conjunction with a stylus, and is a joy to use with minimal lag and various levels of pressure sensitivity. It does feel like you are writing on paper. If HP had stopped here with the Sprout, I’d have been impressed. It would have been a nice classroom computer with touch surfaces, annotation, and a document camera built in.

But wait, there is more… in 3D! The Sprout Pro G2 also offers up 3D scanning in two flavors. The first is a “quick scan” mode where you take an object and hold it under the projector. As you run the software and slowly rotate the object, the computer begins to create a 3D model of the item. The scull that HP provided worked very well, but some other items at the TEC didn’t scan as well (perhaps because of their symmetric nature, reflective material, etc). These scans are ideal for simply creating 3D objects for viewing on a computer or virtual environment, and not really for 3D printing.

The second method of scanning is considerably more accurate, using the 14-megapixel camera, but can be a bit more time consuming. In software, you set the level of accuracy you are looking to achieve, and the device scans the item over multiple captures. The level of accuracy was impressive.

No digital media demo would be complete without a few minor hiccups that HP identified as either an issue with a piece of software, our demo unit, or was an update on the near horizon. For example, we weren’t able to share the content from the projector to the TEC monitor. But, HP assured us that this was an issue with our unit.

As with all well-supported technologies, the Sprout Pro G2 receives regular updates, so it will be interesting to see where this device is in 2-6 months. I’d also be interested to see how well this device would perform in a classroom environment. Overall, this is a very interesting piece of technology, especially considering the took place at Duke’s Technology Engagement Center, the de facto hub for all things 3D in the area.

Epson Brightlink 696Ui Demo

Andrew Schretter from Duke’s Math Department was in the market for an interactive projection system and has shared his thoughts on the Epson Brightlink 696Ui which was supplied to us for testing courtesy of Erik Benson of Kontek.

As far as testing goes, it is a bit tricky to set up properly, you need to make sure the touch sensor is positioned above the screen and calibrating can be a bit tricky with the included markers. But once we had that done, it appears to work fine for our intended usage. Google chrome seems to cause a lot of problems since it has built in touch gesture support and you can’t disable it (things like pinch zoom, swipe to move forward and back pages, and right click that inexplicably supercedes any javascript in the page to disable it). I’m still working on making chrome work for us. The touch clicking also seems to get stuck a bit with chrome, probably because of bad multitouch support. Its as if the touch gets stuck with mouse button down.