Volume 18, Number 4
GPSolo is proud to introduce a product review column to provide a platform for informing our readers about products that they may find helpful in their practice or otherwise. Look for our product review column in the December and June issues of the magazine, which are Technology & Practice Guide special issues.
mimio: It’s Like Magic!
Virtual Ink Corporation has created a combination hardware and software package, mimio, that transfers notes and drawings from a whiteboard into your computer, in color. It is compatible with both Mac and PC computers, and is priced at $549. It allows participants to concentrate on sharing ideas and discussions rather than on taking notes; the device takes the notes for you for later distribution. And, you can keep files of the results and share them at anytime.
mimio provides a special sleeve into which you place standard dry-erase markers; this uses ultrasonic technology to capture the positions of the markers as you move them across the whiteboard. The capture bar can track the marker as it moves across the whiteboard. The sleeve sends a different signal for each of the four colors recognized by the capture bar, allowing the device to reproduce movements in the appropriate color. The device comes with serial and/or USB computer connections and software that records every move you make in real-time and can save it in a variety of graphic or text formats.
The mimio capture bar opens up to about 2 feet and closes to about 15 inches in length. Folded, it stands about 4 inches wide, although the connecting base extends to 7 inches at one end. The device weighs about 2.5 pounds, takes only a few minutes to set up, and requires no separate power source. It easily attaches to any whiteboard up to 4 feet by 8 feet.
Virtual Ink also provides a number of "plug-ins" (extra features) through software add-ons available on its website (www.virtual-ink.com). The two I found potentially the most useful work only with PCs: mimioMouse (free) and writingRecognition ($99). The mimioMouse enables you to use a portion of your whiteboard as a mouse pad and the stylus as a tracking device, allowing you to run your computer from the whiteboard (which could be useful during a meeting or presentation). The handwriting recognition software is supposed to convert your handwriting into editable text. It did not work very well for me, but I admit that many secretaries also have found my handwriting almost unreadable. I have talked with others who had better results with it than I did.
A second iteration of the package, mimio flipChart ($349), works with pen strokes on a flip chart. The flipChart product works only with PCs and comes with two pen sleeves (unlike mimio, which comes with four). Like its whiteboard sibling, you will find mimio flipChart easy to install and to use.
Given my desire for fiscal conservatism, the thought crossed my mind that there was no good reason that the mimio should not work on flip charts as well as whiteboards. I talked to a representative of Virtual Ink who informed me that the ultrasonic reflecting capacities of the different surfaces are not the same and that the devices, while very similar, are not identical. If you can get over the hurdle of mounting the mimio so that it is properly positioned in relation to the flip chart, it will work reasonably well. The flipChart unit, however, has a mounting device designed specifically to attach to a flip chart, which makes it much easier to mount and use. If you intend to use the device frequently for flip charts, it makes better sense to invest in the mimio flipChart device, because the time you invest in trying to mount the whiteboard version correctly will eventually outweigh the extra $349.
Virtual Ink Corporation: 56 Roland Street, Boston, MA 02129; (toll free) 877/696-4646; fax 617/623-9965; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (for general information). Verdict: ease of use: excellent; utility: excellent; value: very good. —Reviewed by Jeffrey M. Allen
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