SoftBoard teleconferencing system attracts federal users

A ceramic whiteboard fitted with lasers is the basis of a teleconferencing system that lets discussion leaders broadcast their whiteboard notes over networks to remote attendees in real time.

SoftBoard, sold by Microfield Graphics Inc., Portland, Ore., uses a true whiteboard to catch a discussion leader's notes as they are written. The board holds two infrared laser scanners that follow the movement of the whiteboard pen and eraser. Those movements are converted into X and Y coordinates and collected by a connected PC or Macintosh.

The notes can then be stored, replayed with a viewer program called SBView, or edited.

Remote teleconference participants can receive the whiteboard notes as they are written in real time through a dial-up connection.

Federal users include NASA's Ames Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center, the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Supreme Court, Scott Air Force Base and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

"I think probably 30 to 50 percent of [SoftBoard users] use it as a whiteboard that takes notes," said Peter Zinsli, vice president for marketing at Microfield Graphics. "More and more, it's used for communication" across remote distances, Zinsli said. Two individuals will use the phone in conjunction with SoftBoard, for example, to communicate vocally and exchange sketches of ideas that are difficult to describe, such as network configurations, he said.

Microfield Graphics sells SoftBoard in three models: a wall-mounted version, a wheeled-stand version and a tabletop size. The price ranges between $2,795 and $3,995. Microfield Graphics sells SoftBoard direct to the government. For more information, call (800) 334-4922.

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