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Interactive Table for Elementary-school Students

Nov 19, 2008 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes

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Smart Technologies Smart Table

Touch-sensitive tabletop computing is fast becoming a mainstream technology. From election-night coverage to interactive menus built into your restaurant table, data interaction on a horizontal surface is no longer an exotic or bizarre occurrence. Adding to the trend is Smart Technologies of Calgary, Alberta, has introduced the Smart Table interactive learning center, a learning display designed specifically for preschool to sixth-grade students (ages 4 to 11).

"We had been thinking of making interactive tables for a number of years," says Nancy Knowlton, CEO of Smart Technologies. "I remember back in 1992 or 1993 sitting at a restaurant with a university professor and talking about whiteboard applications; that it was not inconceivable to have a table like that to act as a good social interface."

According to the company, the new table features a brightly colored tabletop with a touch-sensitive screen where groups of students can simultaneously interact with digital content. Similar to capabilities on an interactive whiteboard, students can select or move objects, draw or write on the screen simultaneously, and work together to find answers to preset questions.

"For the last six to eight years, our rear-projection products have been installed as tables in U.S. military applications," Knowlton says. "There was a nascent need in the education market for this functionality for certain age groups. The table's form factor is sized appropriately for small kids, and there is content and activities appropriate for their age group."

The patent-pending Smart Table requires minimal setup and can be deployed directly from the box. The unit contains a customized PC and a projection system that are turned on with on button. According to the company, the Table has a built-in 27in. screen that can read simultaneous input from fingers or pen tools. Measuring 29in. wide by 25in. tall, the Smart Table can accommodate small groups without crowding.

The Smart Table's screen also has gesture recognition. It supports object scaling (pinching the sides of an object to control the size) and object rotation (putting two or more fingers on an object to rotate it).

"There is no one right way to use the Table," Knowlton says. "Some schools can use the table as the sole collaboration station while others can place it in a room where kids rotate through and use it. We suggest four to five kids per table; perhaps up to six at one table."

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