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Projection plan

Simon Fry follows the evolution of the classroom projector, and looks at the growing benefits of lamp-free technology

Posted by Hannah Oakman | October 17, 2016 | Technology

Developments in projector technology and functionality continue to aid educators and learners alike, with features like quicker on/off times ensuring teachers and lecturers can start lessons and lectures on time and improved interactivity providing students with a more engaging educational experience.

Incorporating greater energy efficiency and meeting the education sector’s requirements have driven developments, according to Phil Clark, head of projection at Casio UK. “We’re seeing more projector manufacturers embrace solid-state illumination (SSI) and lamp-free technology, thanks to the incredible energy savings and maintenance cost reductions it achieves from there being no replacement parts.”

Clark also explains that there has been a lot of progress in making better connectivity options for projectors to improve streaming and sharing capabilities: “In 2010 we moved our entire projection business to lamp-free laser and LED technology, as the education sector required more budget-friendly and sustainable options. Now we continue to pioneer green technology in projection. There is also a huge demand for incorporating more collaboration capabilities in projection, as this is currently a big trend in display technology.”

The BYOD revolution

Projectors, being often the primary display technology in the classroom, are evolving to keep up with the additional mobile technology students and teachers bring into schools such as phones, tablets and laptops. 

“Projectors like our Advanced series are being future-proofed with connectivity such as powered USB to allow for streaming and display-sharing, with greater future-proofing coming via more integration with networks as well as sensors being built in, creating a more intelligent overall technology system,” added Clark.  

Projector manufacturers are responding to changes in the locations in which education is delivered, according to Maverick UK MD Tony Scully. “Projectors are being used in multi-purpose spaces like small classrooms or meeting and study rooms, which require imagery on demand. This is evolving as part of a greater movement in learning and business from presentation to collaboration formats. The flexibility projection allows is perfect for these applications. Another main development is that projection manufacturers are prioritising SSI technologies, like lasers or LED options. 

We are seeing this across the industry and it has fantastic energy-saving and environmental implications for schools adopting it.”

Lasers for lectures 

Robert Meakin, Sony Professional Solutions Europe senior product manager, believes higher education lecturers will continue to use projectors with two different technology forms. “Lecture theatres demand large screen sizes, making installation projection the preferred technology choice for higher education. Traditionally, lamp-based projectors have been used in education to great effect, but laser-based light source projectors are rapidly gaining popularity for offering lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and maintenance. Ultimately, both lamp and laser technologies will continue to co-exist, giving customers the choice of choosing which best suits their needs.” 

Educators needing to maximise learning time and minimise expenditure are benefiting from Sony’s offerings. 

The requirement for lessons to start quickly has driven the development of rapid on/off functionality in our Ultra Short Throw range, amongst others. Meakin continued: “Our advanced technology extends the lamp replacement time to up to 10,000 hours, minimising costs (such as sending someone up a ladder to replace the lamp) and reducing downtime.”

Sony’s projectors also have a range of smart energy-saving features built in to minimise energy consumption. During 2015, over 5% of installation projectors (5,000 lumens and above) sold into the European market used a laser-based light source – and by 2019 this figure is expected to rise to 73% (Futuresource Consulting). Usage in lecture halls averages six–seven hours daily, making a strong business case for laser technologies that are essentially maintenance-free, providing educational institutions with a lower TCO.

Crucial to the eduction experience

“Projection is a more crucial part of today’s education experience than ever before,” according to Panasonic business field marketing specialist Lucy Meredith. “Gone are the days of old overhead projectors using transparent film – today’s laser projectors offer levels of brightness, colour reproduction and energy efficiency far surpassing traditional lamp-based projectors.”

Panasonic projectors offer a range of features making sense for the education environment, with 20,000 hours of maintenance-free operation alongside instant on/off being a huge plus for laser projection. Projection clarity is also improved by features such as Panasonic’s Daylight View Basic, which uses a sensor to measure ambient light and adjusts the colour and brightness levels accordingly. “It means excellent projection quality even in the most brightly-lit rooms: students can take notes and participate fully in the session,” explained Meredith.

Interactive projectors for greater collaboration 

The key considerations for AV installations in the education sector are reliability and TCO. Equipment reliability is crucial, especially when installed in lecture theatres above seating or halls with high ceilings where the projector is fairly inaccessible. The dust-sealed design of Optoma’s DLP projectors prevents dust and dirt from affecting the system, ensuring optimal image quality with minimal maintenance. Optoma’s bright new ZU650 lamp-less laser-phosphor WUXGA projector is perfect for these installations as there are no lamps to replace and it boasts an expected light source life of 20,000 hours. Optoma has just launched a small but powerful XGA projector, X355, giving an excellent TCO and, with the same throw ratio, would be a simple swap from an existing LCD projector.

The goal of greater collaboration in the classroom is driving the growth of interactive projectors such as Optoma’s super-bright interactive 320 range of ultra short throw projectors. Available in resolutions up to 1080p, these project a 100" image from just 55cm away and allow 10 point finger touch from multiple students.

“The introduction of laser projectors has seen our customers increase brightness levels in their teaching spaces,” said CDEC MD Toni Barnett.

“Where the brightness levels are not required our customers are lowering the projector’s brightness, which, due to laser technology, doesn’t cause the colours to lose any of their intensity. This has enabled one university to specify one make and model rather than two or three they’ve needed previously.”

With laser technology, Toni pointed the way ahead. “People want more interactivity, with a higher demand for multi-sensory spaces. As more and more users realise the benefits of the technology we believe we will see laser also being used for digital signage and art installations. We are also likely to see many new developments in the digital cinema market, such as RGB laser with colour reproduction and truly stunning visual output. I am sure what is learnt in this arena will be used to help develop and shape future products for the education sector.” 

Even without a crystal ball, it can be predicted with confidence that projectors will continue to evolve, adapt and improve, taking technology from other fields if necessary, to meet the demands of the educators of tomorrow. 

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