Review: Verdict Plus
Hitachi’s new tool to prevent interactivity from getting out of hand.
Text:/ Tim Stackpool
A collective groan can be heard from AV techs when the client organising that major conference you have booked to work on next week, starts talking about taking delegate voting data and presenting it on-screen. This often leads to loads of scribbling on bits of paper, rushed data entry, layout problems in Powerpoint and the resulting embarrassment due to typos.
On the horizon bringing some relief is the Verdict Plus (VP) interactive response system from Hitachi. Initially developed for classroom use, the VP system comprises a central workstation linked to multiple wireless handsets capable of recording audience reaction through a series of push button commands. Similar in size to a regular TV remote control, the handset has an intuitive button layout upon which respondents can enter alpha-numeric data or merely respond to yes/no, true/false questions. Colour-coding on the keypad can also make data entry simpler. The data is then collected and can be automatically displayed on the PC as pie, bar, graph charts or a number of other layout options.
“While our initial focus for the product was on use in the classroom, there has subsequently been significant interest from corporate boardrooms, especially in the way this system can be integrated into our Starboard product, an advanced interactive whiteboard,” said James Burke, Hitachi’s Starboard product specialist. “In the conference arena, there is an emphasis on gaining opinion and feedback from the audience, and engaging their attention in order to avoid ‘death by Powerpoint’. The Verdict system can be key to achieving this by having the audience’s responses integrated live into the presentation at it proceeds.”
Pie charts aside, a more appealing games-type representation of the data is also built into the software, where any quiz-like results can be depicted as vehicles on a race track. Using this feature in training and teaching environments, students can visualise their performance against other participants as if racing each other around the circuit. Conceivably, game-show type simulations could also be possible, using the handset as the contestant’s response ‘buzzer’.
NOW WIRELESS BY RADIO
This version of the hardware supersedes a previous release popular in the UK. That first generation used infra-red for each handset to communicate with the base station. The new release has replaced those comms with RF, thereby gaining the coverage and reliability expected by the conference industry. “We’ve also made the handset more robust” said Burke, “as the schoolroom application can have the units handled by loads of pupils each day. The layout of the keyboard and the alpha-numeric button facility was born out of the popularity of SMS and texting. If you can send a text on your phone, using the keys on our handset to generate words is just as simple. And the text can be checked via the handset’s on-board LCD before submitting.”
On the workstation side, the Verdict ‘Cens-us’ toolbar can be minimised alongside other presentation applications, making it instantly available for when audience reaction or participation is required. This way, pre-determined questions can be used, or questions can be determined ‘on-the-fly’ if required. Results can be displayed anonymously or tagged with a user name.
Each handset has a range of about 500 metres, with as many as 1000 participants per system. As a standard unit, the kit comprises a single receiver, with 25 handsets as well as another for the moderator which can used to ‘activate’ or ‘deactivate’ a voting or response activity, along with other master controls. This allows the moderator a degree of freedom to control the software without needing to be chained to the master PC. All the wireless units are powered by rechargeable batteries. A charger is also included. Available only for Windows, the system requires a 133 MHz or higher Pentium CPU, with at least 64MB of ram.
1 x Receiver
25 x Handsets
Verdict Plus software: RRP $4,400
Hitachi Australia – Digital Presentation Solutions Division: 02 9888 4936