InFocus was one of the first companies to offer interactive projectors. Today, while others are introducing their first models, InFocus is already selling its second generation, including the current high end InFocus IN3916 Widescreen Interactive Projector. Built around a DLP chip, the IN3916 offers WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution as its native format.
Among the IN3916's notable touches is the combination of a short throw with the ability to use the interactive wand without touching the screen. Taken together, the two features minimize the chances of accidentally getting between the projector and screen to cast shadows. Even better, because it doesn't need calibration, the IN3916 is a good fit if you need a projector you can move from room to room. We measured it at somewhat less than its 2700-lumen rating, but it's easily bright enough for a typical classroom or conference room and a good choice for either, at $1425, with an educational discount also available.
It's interactive. The primary advantage for any interactive projector is the interactivity. If you don't need the feature, you can get equivalent projectors without it for less. However, having it built into the projector saves money over buying a separate interactive whiteboard. As you might expect, the IN3916 comes with an interactive pen, or wand, that you can use as a tool both as a mouse and for tasks like drawing or annotating existing documents. The wand even includes a scroll wheel, along with left and right buttons for mouse clicks.
No calibration. The IN3916's interactive technology was developed by TI. It takes advantage of the projector superimposing a grid on the image. The grid is invisible to the human eye. However, the wand can see it, so it can tell the projector where it's pointing.
Because the grid is projected along with the image, there's no calibration needed as with typical interactive whiteboards and some competing projectors. Set the projector up, point the wand, and the projector knows exactly which pixels you're pointing at. Move the projector, point to the same pixels in the new position on screen, and the projector still knows which pixels you're pointing at.
Eliminating the need for calibration doesn't matter much for a permanently installed projector that you would otherwise calibrate only once. For one that gets moved around on a regular basis, however, it's a major convenience that will save you a few minutes every time you set it up.
No need to touch the screen. In addition to eliminating the need for calibration, using a wand that only needs to point to the screen has two other benefits. First, you can use any surface, including a screen that's suspended from the top, without a solid backing behind it. Second, you can stand to one side of the screen and interact with something on the other side, or stand several feet in front of the screen. Either choice helps avoid casting shadows.
In a classroom, not having to touch the screen can also free you to stand by a student's desk or in the back of the room. In our tests, the wand worked from about 30 feet away. However, unless you have a surgeon's steady hand, don't expect to do anything that requires fine control from more than a few feet. The further the distance, the harder it is to control movement on the screen. I found that trying to click from a distance usually was enough to move the pointer off whatever I was trying to click on.
Short throw. The IN3916's short throw lets you project a large image from a short distance. This is particularly helpful for interactive use, because it makes it less likely that you'll get between the projector and the screen, and possibly cast shadows. The projector can throw a 56.6 diagonal image from about 2.5 feet, and a 127" diagonal image from 5.4 feet. We measured a 93" diagonal image (78" wide) from 3.3 feet. That's close enough to the screen to let you stand next to or even in back of the projector and still have good control for pointing the wand.