What would you do with an 84-inch computer monitor with 4K UltraHD resolution?
Westinghouse Digital, a company better known for making high-definition televisions than PCs, is branching out into the interactive whiteboard business with massive PC-TV hybrids that understand touch. Although an LED WhiteBoard makes more sense inside classrooms and boardrooms than your home, the company is open to the idea of offering the device to consumers, as long as they don’t mind ponying up $16,000 for the bragging rights ($15,000 if you don’t need the built-in PC that powers the 4K screen) – and have the space for it.
We got a chance to see this 84-inch WhiteBoard up close, so scroll on down to see what we think.
It’s practically an interactive wall
First of all, you can’t help but notice the LED 4K Monitor’s size: it’s huge and makes you feel tiny when standing next to it – the 38.5-inch InFocus Mondopad has nothing on this beast. Unlike a big-screen HDTV where you’d step as far back as possible to take in all the screen, you need to stand pretty close to this WhiteBoard to use its touchscreen, which makes you feel as if you’re playing with an interactive wall rather than just a monitor.
To make touch possible on such a large surface, Westinghouse uses its proprietary Infrared Touch rather than the capacitive technology that is in your mobile devices. What this means is the WhiteBoard uses IR cameras hidden along the edge of the screen that track the location and movement of your fingers, so it can understand your touch controls. You (and another user) can use up to six fingers at the same time to zoom in, out, and to poke at the virtual keyboard. For example, we were able to doodle on the WhiteBoard with our finger, while another Westinghouse representative used his hand to capture screenshots. The WhiteBoard’s touch system felt responsive to our gestures: we didn’t notice any significant lag in the brief time we were playing with the device.
Since the point of the demo was to show off the WhiteBoard’s touch features – rather than its 4K UltraHD, 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution LED screen with 178 degree (vertical and horizontal) viewing angles – we didn’t get to watch any 4K sample reels to check out its screen. Instead, we got to play with the company’s own WhiteBoard app that runs on top of Windows 8 (you can also opt for Windows 7).
You can access the basic WhiteBoard touch features from Desktop mode, which, as you can see in the photo, looks just like a vertical toolbox. Say you want to scribble some notes about a webpage; all you have to do is select the pencil tool on the toolbox before you start your annotations.
If you want to do much more than just highlight some text with the basic tools, you can use the full-featured WhiteBoard app. To make the WhiteBoard particularly useful for meetings and for school, the app lets you set different backgrounds like blank sheet music for music class, or blank field-of-play diagrams for coaches to call plays.
You can also import and edit photos, create stamps of shapes, and type out text and math formulas so that they’re neater than just your chicken scratches.
There’s a PC in here
Behind the gigantic 84-inch screen is a little PC with a third-generation Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM (expandable to 8GB), a 500GB hard drive, Wi-Fi (not 802.11ac), an Ethernet port, 6 USB ports, as well as dual HDMI and VGA-outs to make it easy to connect the WhiteBoard with other audio visual equipment. The whole setup is surprisingly compact, and you can hardly tell that there’s a computer inside unless you peak in the back.
If you’re willing to make do with a smaller display that offers just 1080p HD resolution, a 70-inch WhiteBoard can be had for $8,000. A 65-inch and 55-inch option are also available for $7,000 and $5,000, respectively. You can even knock $1,000 off these prices if you choose to go without an integrated computer and just hook up your own PC to the WhiteBoard via HDMI.
The WhiteBoard is definitely geared more for school and meetings than for homes, but it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine such a large touchscreen PC-TV hybrid taking over your family room or basement for gaming. We’re already seeing 20-plus-inch all-in-one computers and tablets geared for homes, so why not a gigantic 84-incher? These Westinghouse WhiteBoards won’t be available until this fall, and we could possibly see smaller models with more family-friendly price tags coming to our homes in the near future.
[Video from Dick DeBartolo’s YouTube channel]