Longtime readers of my blog know that on occasion I will utterly geek out. This is one of those occasions, so proceed at your own risk. There are, however, many readers of the Director's Desk that share the nerd gene, so cut us some slack.
Every year, I teach a two-day course called Information Resources to new recruits in the police academy. I always enjoy it, and have blogged about it before. It was on the agenda for last Thursday and Friday, in week two of the current class. On Friday afternoon, I moved the 13 trainees from Classroom A to the main conference room. My motive was twofold: first, a change of scenery after a week in the classroom would be nice; second, I wanted to use the big 60 inch monitor in the conference room instead of the LCD projector in the classroom, in order to try out a new toy.
Right before Christmas, I bought an Apple TV. One of the factors in my decision was the ability to mirror content wirelessly from Macs, iPads, and iPhones--a feature Apple calls AirPlay. On Christmas eve, we streamed 3,000 or so family photos from Tonja's iPad to the LED television in the family room while the holiday music played and we all enjoyed the grand kids rampage through the wrapping paper. I started thinking, though, about other uses for the Apple TV at work, and on Friday I implemented the trial run.
I wanted to run a presentation, and then demonstrate and train on some applications that require a computer (CrimeView Dashboard), an iPad and an iPhone (CrimeView NEARme). So during the lunch break I hooked up my Apple TV to the big monitor in the conference room. During the afternoon session, I moved back and forth mirroring the content from a MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone--wirelessly, seamlessly, and with nothing more than a swipe. Had I thought about it, I could have had the students with iPhone 4S or 5 (about half) do the same thing, and we could have passed control of the content on the big screen around to our hearts' content.
I've put a kit together with a spare power cord and HDMI cord, so I can steal the Apple TV from the family room without having to snake cords from behind the entertainment center. It seems to me that this would be a terrific setup for a college instructor or someone like me that does a lot of business presentations or training sessions. Your iPad becomes a full-featured wireless presentation pad, allowing you to roam at will, hand it off to anyone else, and even trade off control of the content with other devices in the room. Actually, it's far more than a presentation device, because you can do much more than navigate among slides: you can switch applications, surf the web, and interact just as if you were standing at a computer hard-wired to a projector. Apple's presentation software, Keynote, works very well with this set up. I can open a PowerPoint stored in Dropbox, Keynote converts the format automatically, and I can run it from my iPhone or iPad mini while wandering. It looks just as good as if I had done it from a laptop on the podium tethered to the projector.
The caveat is that all the devices and the Apple TV must be on the same WiFi network, and it's HDMI out, so you need a monitor or projector with HDMI in. In a room with an HDMI projector and WiFi, this just beats the pants off a laptop and a long VGA cord. One other thing I've noticed about my Apple devices is how easily they all seem to work with various LCD projectors when using standard VGA. For years I've wrestled trying to get projectors to recognize laptops. The drill is to show up to your room 20 minutes early, futz around with resolution settings, graphics properties, and Ctrl-F8 until your hands are sweaty and the audience is fidgeting waiting for an image. Not with Apple. Plug it in, and it just works.