Friday, 11 May 2007

The search for a device

So, what are we looking for? A device of some description. It needs to:

  • be hand-held
  • be able to run MS Office (in order to host Powerpoint)
  • be able to record sound (preferably without the necessity of a plug-in microphone)
  • include a camera (for stills and video)
  • have handwriting recognition

My initial ideas were around some sort of PDA or mobile phone . However, despite it's attractions, there were various drawbacks - no MS office and screen too small.

I then came across the Origami Project website. This introduced me to the idea of the UMPC. This appeared to be much more like it. It met so many of my criteria. I just needed to find the ideal UMPC for my needs. A trip to the BETT Show at Olympia in January 2007 might be where I would find my 'Holy Grail'.

What a disappointment BETT was. I saw a Samsung Q1.

This definitely showed promise but there was no camera built into the device itself.

I also saw the Tatung H70.

This device did have the camera I so desired. So, initally I was very excited.

The camera, it turns out, was mounted towards the user (presumably to facilitate video conferencing). This is all very well, but not very useful for a busy early years practitioner wanting to take video and/or photographs of children as they learn.

Now, I'm lucky enough to work for an organisation that were prepared to purchase two UMPCs with a view to supporting this project. Despite not having seen one 'in the flesh', we decided to buy an ASUS R2H and the Tatung H70

The ASUS arrived first and I could hardly hide my excitement as I unboxed it and booted it up. It boasted the most astonishing package of gizmos and tools: GPS, fingerprint recognition security, built-in camera etc etc. My initial excitement slowly dwindled as I discovered its limitations: a processor that couldn't cope with video (rendering the camera designed for video conferencing useless), GPS that didn't work, handwriting recognition that (due to the slow processor) couldn't keep up and so on.
Then came the Tatung H70, this was much more like it. It's 1GHz processor knocked the socks off the ASUS' sluggish 500MHz. It sang and it danced and I began to allow myself a degree of excitement again. Just the one problem remained with both devices: forward facing cameras.
The next stage of the quest began... The search for a suitable webcam.

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