We're really talking about two separate things here, in some cases. Some projectors can take a flash drive through their USB port, and present from it. In normal cases, that means the projector has at least a basic image player, and can make a presentation out of a series of JPG images. There's nothing new about that, and Powerpoint, for example can be outputted as JPG images for such a purpose.
The other aspect is DisplayLink and the ability to interface with a computer via USB instead of standard VGA type inputs. DisplayLink was already covered above.
On-Board Laser Pointers and Optical Pointers
Several projectors reviewed have a laser pointer on the remote. It should be considered whether students will be running the projector from the remote, and therefore if there should be concerns about those laser pointers. Out here in California, (not school related) there's even proposed legislation, to limit or ban the sale of laser pointers.
Years ago, I'd say a lot most projector remotes did have lasers. Why the dramatic decrease (especially since the costs have dropped a lot)? Easy, Students! Putting a laser pointer in the hands of a student may open up all kinds of potential liability issues. I don't know whether a school needs to really worry about it, but it's apparently convinced several major players to remove laser pointers from their remotes in recent years. The vast majority of projectors mentioned in this report, do not have laser pointers on board. I'm probably over-reacting, but wanted you to be aware of a potential liability. I certainly would not recommend eliminating any projector because it has a laser on the remote. At the very worst, cover the lens with some tape or marker, or anything that blocks the laser, if you are concerned.
As an alternative, some projectors have a projected pointer feature. In that case you might be able to choose from a red, laser like dot, or an arrow, or a finger pointing, a bullet, or other symbols. If a projector has a pointer system there's a decent chance it's remote will have some sort of diskpad to to move it around the projected image, as an object created by the projector. At worse, moving it around would be done using the four navigation arrows found on virtually every projector remote control.
Projected Pointers aren't as quick, nor as sexy as laser pointers but they do get the job done well enough.
We are not networking people here, and don't dare evaluate performance. But we can comment on the general usage. One purpose is command and control - that the projector can be remotely operated,by the teacher (via computer), or, be shut off, automatically at 5pm every Friday from a remote server at district office or by the school's IT manager.
From Projector to Network: Many networking projectors offer email notification through the network. That means the projector can email an adminstrator (or several) if a lamp blows, a filter needs changing, or to report a malfunction (assuming the problem doesn't affect the networking).
Adding projectors to your network, can, per the examples above, save money. Leaving a projector on all weekend will use a couple bucks of electricity, and waste lamp life. Email notifications can help with management and efficiency, and probably improve uptime slightly. Remember, some projectors will shut down when lamps reach their full life. An early reminder can prevent a panic, and down time.
More and more projectors support protocols such as Crestron's RoomView which can allow messages to be pushed out over the network and displayed on the projectors all over the school, or district. That same network person could power up all the projectors and send out special announcements, etc. Very handy in emergency circumstances.
No doubt there are schools using wireless networking for handling presentations, but it is certainly is relatively scarce in the classroom, compared to say wired networking. It can certainly be a convenience, allowing a teacher to move their computer around the room while still using the projector to teach. In a properly controlled environment, perhaps a computer lab, wireless offers some interesting abilities. As an example, Panasonic had a projector that could support either 16 or 32 wireless computers, allowing switching between them, so that an instructor could have any one student's computer screen routed through the projector.
Wireless networking is definitely favored more when laptops rather than desktop computers are around, at least in the US.
That's worthy of some thought, one thing I've learned, is that we have a huge amount of old wiring in the US. Many countries, newer to technology than we are, in many cases, are reducing infrastructure costs by skipping the wire, and going wireless. In many countries now, cell phones rule, there aren't land lines. Are we too focused on using wire? Can wireless reduce costs? Not my call. You'd have to figure that out for your location.
Presenting and Teaching - Controlling Presentations with iOS, Android Devices
Remote mousing, by definition, in terms of projectors, means you can control the same aspects of your computer from your projector's remote control, as you could from the computer's own mouse or touchpad.
That would be moving the cursor around the screen, clicking on items, pointing to items, even turning pages in Powerpoint and other presentation software.
Interactive projectors, are inherently offering full remote mousing, and additional capabilities as well. Of non-interactive projectors that offer remote mousing there are two basic feature types.
Less common today, but easier for use, is a mini-joystick, or button that allows you to move in any direction. More and more, instead, projector manufacturers stick to navigating using their arrow keys. That's not as fast, or as elegant, but usually means the manufacturer doesn't need a custom remote for the projectors that offer remote mousing.
If you consider remote mousing to be an important feature, (and I'm sure many teachers using interactive software - not necessarily interactive projectors, do consider it important), remember, that you can always go to the aftermarket for some excellent 3rd party remote mousing devices. Look to companies like Logitech, Gyration, etc, for such products. Many work even better than the ones standard on projectors. I personally favor radio frequency, instead of the infra-red, always used on projector remotes. They are less intrusive to the presenter, as you don't really have to point them at the projector, or a sensor. As a business presenter for years I have always been a fan of the Gyration Presenter (history). Their Air Mouse and AirMouse Go plus (operates as an in-air mouse with full features, or can work like a conventional mouse), or the Air Mouse Elite, should be considered as excellent value added remote mousing solutions for any projector (or anytime you need to leave your mouse behind).
This year in the report, most of the DLP projectors are 3D capable, but we have for the first time in our annual education reports, an LCD projector with 3D. , and none of the others, which are all LCD projectors. Again we ask the question; ready for what exactly? Those projectors sporting the 3D Ready, the presumption is that they have 120fps abilities. Technically you can get by with 60fps and it's been done that way for a while, just not mainstream.
Most of what is going on with the DLP projectors calls for the electronic shutter glasses. That poses an immediate problem for school situations. The $100 or more per pair price, isn't practical at the school level. In a year perhaps more likely two, there will be sufficient volume to drive the prices to $15-$30 a pair. That may make a difference. At least some are now down below the $99 mark.
The technology LCD projectors will probably go with, is stacking two projectors, and using passive glasses. I've seen an Hitachi stack, that still wasn't ready for "production" with a few too many minor artifacts, etc., at the time, however, it was also noticeably brighter than the 3D active solutions from DLP.
Unless you have specific projects in mind that call for 3D, this year's shopping season may still be one season too soon to be serious about any general 3D implementation.
With that in mind, however, the extra cost it seems for 3D ready on DLP projectors is minor (other than the big bucks for glasses), so I would recommend, that if you want to keep your optiones open.
In other words, consider 3D as a future item, at least.
Content, as they say is king, and there is more and more coming, especially for education. In the sciences, and history, but it can show up in language software, and just about anyplace else.
With a daughter now in college, I've watched the technology experience as she's gone from elementry, through high school. Not everything is coursework, which means not everything that may be highly desirable to view in 3D in the classroom, may not be designed, or even intended for classroom.
For this reason, we are concerned with compatibility across 3D, including whether these projectors that are 3D ready, can actually view Blu-ray 3D content (none of them can), as well as coursework. Also, of the four 3D ready projectors I directly worked with, only one, for example, could work with 3D off of DirecTV. Now there's a lot of interesting 3D content showing up on DirecTV and, I assume, cable as well.
There's a lot of music performances in 3D, there are documentaries (a recent one on China I enjoyed), especially travel related. There's a new documentary about the Civil War, that I think is starting production, or just released... The point is, class work has always been supplemented with movies, TV news, field trips, and many other things, not purely "coursework". I believe that plenty of the 3D content (non-movie) reaching the light of day may have some use in the classroom, so compatibility beyond 3D from the computer, could be important down the road.
You may be able to add that capability later! Consider, of the first crop of 3D lower resolution projectors more than a year ago, and the same for probably all the non-home theater 3D ready projectors right now (4/2012):
Last year Optoma announced their 3D-XL accessory. They understood that Blu-ray 3D specs call for HDMI 1.4, which even most home theater projectors don't have yet. So that their consumers buying game and general 3D ready projectors for home use, weren't immediately limited by l the lack of HDMI 1.4, they brought out the 3D-XL, which as of this moment is already shipping in the EU, but not yet here in the US.
The 3D-XL (which we hoped to have for this report), is HDMI 1.4 compatible, can accept the Blu-ray 3D output from Blu-ray 3D compatible player, and convert the signal, so that it will work on a 720p 3D ready projector without HDMI 1.4.
The education technology world probably needs an accessory like the 3D-XL, compatible with 3D ready projectors of all resolutions, so that you know whatever 3D projector you buy, can later be accessorized to handle Blu-ray 3D. Whether these same devices also address the problem of some 3D using "optional" standards, instead of one of the core group of 3D standards. This has been the problem with most of the DirecTV content in 3D, except that coming from their ESPN 3D channel, which so far has stuck with a major standard method. Yes, even ESPN content, could be useful in the classroom, to varsity (and non-varsity) teams, to News in the classroom (be it the Olympics), contemporary politics, disasters around the world, etc.
As the critical mass of 3D continutes to rise, 3D content will become a major way some deliverers of information will set themselves apart form the competition. Remember those Tsumami images from Japan? As tragic and devastating as those images were, I can pretty much guaranty they would have had even more emotional and real impact if they were in 3D and viewed in same.
Expect all kinds of content to come to 3D, and a good deal of it, that was never intended for the classroom will show up in classrooms as tools for learning.