An electronic whiteboard without the whiteboard would probably be the most succinct way to describe the mimio from Virtual Ink. To clarify, the mimio works on any regular whiteboard so it doesn't require you to carry around any dedicated whiteboard for it to work. This clever system is principally a transmitter and a receiver which transcribes what is written on the whiteboard into a PC with the mimio software installed. Electronic whiteboards have been around for a while now, but they've all been expensive dedicated boards that, while they can be wheeled around, can hardly be classified as portable. The main difference with the mimio is that it can be easily carried around as a small package.
The main component is the capture bar (receiver) which mounts onto the left edge of a whiteboard via suction cups and is connected to a PC through the supplied serial cable. The mimio kit also contains four whiteboard markers consisting of black, blue, green and red. These are encased within purpose-built marker jackets which have the transmitters built-in. Pressure on the felt tip nib of the markers when writing on the board activates the transmitter, which sends a signal to the capture bar, which in turn is sent to the mimio software in the PC. The scrawls appear in real time so that it appears on the screen as soon as it is written on the board. The bundled eraser works in much the same way, transmitting to the capture bar when pressure is applied.
The mimio works remarkably well and produces electronic copies which are true to
the original. It accomplishes this through a combination of infrared and acoustic sensors to trace the movements of the markers and eraser. Each marker colour has its own individual jacket, thereby the different colours you use are also translated to electronic form. The software is both easy to set up and use, with the main screen presented in a graphical form of the whiteboard complete with the mimio capture bar attached. The left frame houses quick access to various functions and settings while the bottom frame
in the screen can be set to display thumbnails of multiple 'sessions', annotated notes and 'session' playback.
Setting up is relatively easy. Out of the box the coloured markers first need to be placed in their jackets along with supplied AAA batteries. Then it's a simple matter of mounting the capture bar on the board, connecting the cable to the PC and installing the mimio software. The capture bar requires both a 9-pin serial port as well as a PS/2 port as it is entirely powered off the connection. The PS/2 head is designed with a pass-through port so you can keep your keyboard connected. I tested the mimio on a notebook - a combination which seemed to make the most sense to me as those requiring a portable presentation capture tool will likely also be using, or needing, a notebook.
The mimio can sometimes miss pen strokes if the user is writing or sketching too quickly, or else not putting enough pressure on the tip for the entire stroke. But, on the whole, it captures handwriting with a high level of accuracy. The biggest advantage for using mimio however, will be when sketching diagrams, graphs and images which are otherwise difficult and time-consuming for note-takers in your audience to reproduce by hand. In fact it was this need that inspired its creator, Yonald Chery, to come up with the idea. Virtual Ink is promoting the mimio as a product that 'turns any whiteboard into an electronic whiteboard', and on that mark, it hits the nail
right on the head.