|The SMART LightRaise 40wi Interactive Projector (pictured upside-down).|
I was able to try out this product and was quite impressed overall. Our situation did not allow us to properly mount the LightRaise above the projected area, so we propped it up on a small table below a whiteboard; note that SMART Tech does not approve of using the unit this way as it could be dangerous to the projector or to people using it. Setup was incredibly easy. Just plug the LightRaise into the power outlet, connect to the display port and USB port of a computer (with drivers installed), pick up the pen, and you're in business. Unlike a SMART Board, there is no need to orient the LightRaise... ever. You can move the unit while drawing with the pen, and all your interactions will be perfectly aligned with the projected image. You barely have to position the projector more than a few inches from the wall to get a gigantic interactive surface: up to 100 inches diagonal.
Although the pen is made for interacting with your software by you clicking and dragging it on the wall or whiteboard you're projecting on, it can also control the mouse cursor just by pointing (see video, below) and clicking a button on the side of the pen. When used like this, it's a lot like a Wii-mote. It's not super accurate, especially as you approach the 30-foot limit, but it's an excellent feature for the classroom, especially if you have kids who can't come up to the front because of physical disability. I wish they had put a right-click button on the pen, however.
The unit comes with a wall-mountable pen locker that can securely store your pen in the classroom when you're not around and charge the lithium-ion battery at the same time.
The projector also has a 10-Watt sound system built in, which can accept a microphone and/or computer input.
If you're used to using a SMART Board, you might miss being able to control your computer by touch, or just picking up the eraser to erase a line. Instead you have to click on every tool with the pen, and to right-click, you either have to hold a click for 5 seconds, or go to the SMART Tools and click on a right-click icon and then the spot where you want to right-click. But there is an advantage of using a pen-based system: no problems with unintended touch. A user leaning with one hand or their palm while writing with the pen will not have a problem. Or if you have a bunch of kids up at the front at the same time, an impatient or careless student touching the board will not ruin the work of the kid whose turn it is to write.
Overall, you do get great value for the money with the LightRaise, plus something no competitor can offer: SMART Notebook. With version 11 due out at the same time as the LightRaise, Notebook is boasting exciting new features, making the LightRaise and SMART Board line harder than ever to beat.