Take note of mimio

Government managers are constantly challenged to find technology that helps

staff members save time and work smarter, which benefits agencies by keeping

costs in line.

Just consider the problems surrounding meetings with remote staff. Travel

costs and time away from the office drain departmental budgets and productivity.

Electronic whiteboards can help reduce travel and make meetings more fruitful.

They enable people in one location to see notes or presentations as they

occur in a remote conference room. Unfortunately, first-generation electronic

whiteboards were bulky and costly, limiting their use to fixed locations.

A year ago, Virtual Ink Corp. introduced mimio — a small, inexpensive device

that forms a bridge between standard whiteboards and computers. This novel

product, which is easily transported and quickly installed, continuously

converts whiteboard writing into digital files.

Mimio's most obvious benefit is eliminating the need for people to take

notes, because screens can be saved or printed on demand. However, that's

really just a small part of what mimio offers agencies. For example, with

the latest mimio 1.1 software, anyone with Microsoft Corp. NetMeeting software

can join a mimio whiteboard session and collaborate remotely. By taking

advantage of those distance teamwork tools and other new features, mimio

is certain to increase productivity and creativity of agency personnel.

We attached the 2.5-pound mimio capture bar to our whiteboard in less than

a minute. Lever-mounted suction cups hold mimio firmly either horizontally

or vertically, depending on the size of your whiteboard. A serial cable

(or optional $49 plug-and-play Universal Serial Bus adapter) connects the

bar to your PC or laptop and delivers power. Lastly, we place standard dry-erase

markers into color-coded electronic sleeves. These enable mimio software

to track the markers and recognize what you write.

There's no need to calibrate the unit; once we launched the mimio software,

anything we wrote on the physical whiteboard immediately appeared on software's

virtual whiteboard workspace.

Out of the box, mimio software offers abundant features, from changing the

color and width of marker lines to saving writing as vector-based files

that can be scaled and printed without any quality loss.

To host remote meetings, we simply opened Microsoft NetMeeting. Almost immediately,

our mimio whiteboard appeared in the NetMeeting workspace of remote users.

This ease of use means that agency IT managers won't have to worry about

configuring additional software for end users. Similarly, we could see annotations

that far-off team members made to their NetMeeting whiteboard.

We tested several new software plug-ins and hardware accessories that demonstrate

mimio's flexible design.

MimioMouse 2.0 (a free download) is a must if you use a video projector

to give software demonstrations. This feature turns your whiteboard into

a versatile touch screen. For example, we started by projecting a Microsoft

PowerPoint presentation onto the whiteboard. MimioMouse let us control the

presentation from the whiteboard. We could highlight specific areas on slides,

draw on the whiteboard next to the slide, and then save the annotated image.

If your agency uses RealNetworks Inc.'s RealSystem G2 streaming media servers

for presentations or distance learning, you should consider the $249 mimio

boardCast package. We easily configured the boardCast Producer software

to take handwriting (from the whiteboard) and audio, convert them into Real

format, and then generate a SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language)

file that delivered the live stream. This same process also works well when

archiving your multimedia whiteboard presentations for on-demand streaming

playback at a later time.

Likewise, we were pleased that Virtual Ink delivered a much-requested feature:

handwriting recognition. This $69 plug-in, which doesn't require any training,

took cursive and printed words from our whiteboard and automatically transferred

the converted text into a Microsoft Word document.

For conference rooms without a PC, you might consider the $199 mimio DirectPrint

device. It sits between the mimio bar and a printer. After writing something

on the whiteboard, you merely press the bar's print button to get a hard

copy of your notes.

All in all, mimio is an extremely versatile system that delivers a lot of

efficiency in its basic configuration. Reasonably priced enhancements further

improve mimio's value to government agencies.

Heck is an InfoWorld contributing editor and manager

of electronic promotions at Unisys Corp. in Blue Bell, Pa.


mimio 1.1

Score: A-

Virtual Ink Corp.

(888) 284-4091


Price and Availability: Mimio costs $499 (basic configuration) and can be purchased on government purchase cards through resellers ComputerWare, CDW-G Inc. and GTSI Corp.

Remarks: Mimio is an inexpensive device that, within a few minutes, turns almost any standard whiteboard into a digital canvas. The unit accurately captures handwriting, color text and drawings — then delivers that information in real time to remote users via an Internet connection.

BY Mike Heck
December 20, 2000

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