The University of Central Missouri (UCM), located in Warrensburg, Miss., is a cost-conscious public institution focused on high-quality education. The university’s commitment to students’ and faculty’s success permeates every facet of the learning experience. As a result, they transformed the educational environment using the latest technology integrated by AVI-SPL. The solution by AVI-SPL features San Diego, Calif.-based Sony’s customizable AI-enabled Edge Analytics solution (REA-C1000) and SRG-X120 PTZ cameras.
As COVID-19 changed the educational model, the need for more dynamic and flexible presentation solutions became apparent. The university also received additional funding support from the CARES Act. This created an innovative new classroom setup leveraging the latest technology at just the right time for UCM.
Creating a Highly Interactive Education Environment
AVI-SPL, Tampa, Fla.-based digital enablement solutions provider, installed more than 30 Edge devices connected with Sony’s PTZs as UCM’s new classroom standard across campus. These devices feature presenter tracking and enable handwriting extraction. Based on their positive experience, UCM plans to implement 14 additional systems.
Highlights of Sony’s Edge smart video analytics solution include the adoption of AI and augmented reality (AR) technology. This will enhance the quality of communication and collaboration and empower engaging presentations. When used alongside Sony’s powerful PTZ cameras, Edge serves as a virtual camera operator. It can thus elevate and capture a presentation. Alongside this, it can incorporate additional licenses for a range of different features and benefits. This includes the handwriting extraction and PTZ auto tracking, as well as close-up by gesture, chroma key-less CG overlay and focus area cropping.
David Gantz, account executive at AVI-SPL, helped consult, spec and support this ongoing installation. He knew the school needed to update its facilities to account for new methods of instruction and learning. So, he sought a flexible and easy to use solution to enhance engagement and foster collaboration in any setup or type of classroom.
During the pandemic, Gantz, with the support of AVI-SPL’s engineers including John Stuhlman, virtually demonstrated Edge to UCM’s manager of multimedia, Ray Walters. Walters and his team support the office of technology at the school. Walters explains, “Prior to the pandemic, UCM was seeing a shift in how it was delivering classroom content. At the same time, I was receiving numerous requests from academic Deans and educators to enable hybrid classrooms where lectures could be recorded and presented in an asynchronous format.”
An Effective, ‘Wow-Worthy’ Solution
After the demo, Gantz says they “wowed” the team who immediately “saw the value.” He continues, “From a financial standpoint, the camera is priced equal or better than competitors and the performance and quality are equal or better. Additionally, Sony and their staff have proven to be reliable for us.”
Walters adds, “It’s very rare that I get surprised or impressed by a product release. When I was introduced to Sony’s forward-thinking Edge Analytics device, it was a breath of fresh air. It solves several different needs for my classrooms as we pursue a hybrid teaching experience. The reasonable price and simple operation reduce the friction on users in the room. Sony had nailed everything I needed in one small package.”
UCM chose the Edge solution for other reasons as well. The team use the Edge Analytics and PTZ camera solution with instructors. According to Sony, they immediately recognized the benefits of the straightforward technology. Gantz states, “It’s a box with licenses that enhance the capabilities of your room, based on your needs and budget. Instructors love the presenter tracking feature for whiteboarding and presenting.”
Gantz spotlight the smoothness and accuracy of the tracking feature. Additionally, he points out its ease of use. “Adoption has gone really well because we’ve taken extra care not to make the room complex, because complexity deters instructors from wanting to use technology,” he proclaims.
The Future of Handwriting Extraction
Gantz also expands on the beneficial features and accommodating pricing. He explains, “It’s also a very big win that the tracking license [is] free with our purchase and not a recurring cost. It’s nice to pay only for the extra features you need. If the licenses for Edge were yearly subscriptions, that would’ve been a deal breaker for an educational institute like University of Central Missouri.”
UCM also uses Edge’s handwriting extraction license. This license leverages AR to ensure that words, notes, sketches and diagrams on a white or blackboard remain in full view of the audience, regardless of the presenter’s location. In select classrooms, they’re exploring the chroma key-less CG overlay license. This license uses Sony’s advanced motion detection technology. With this, they can extract and overlay the presenter onto any background image, animation or video for an instant backdrop. What’s more, it does not require any dedicated equipment or resources.
Walters remarks, “When I saw the handwriting extraction demonstration in action, it honestly caused me to clap and I quickly realized how this device would bring value to my classrooms and enhance the quality of our lecture capture.”
Looking to the Future
Instructors are not the only ones to appreciate the upgraded innovations. Gantz further notes that new state-of-the-art technology provides schools like UCM with a competitive advantage and help with recruitment. He maintains that students demand technology. He notes, “In order to attract students to a school, you need to offer collaboration and interactivity. Technology is something students were born with and use every day. They expect it to infiltrate every part of their life and education is no exception.”
Gantz continues, “By offering a new level of engagement, new capabilities and a digital mindset, students can overcome some of the traditional classroom concerns and distractions and ensure they have a good view of the instructor and their notes, no matter where they’re sitting.”
He expresses his excitement for the future of technology. He sees AI and AR as a logical avenue for enrichment, enhancement and engagement. Gantz adds, “In addition to being cool, technology and especially AI and AR serve a real purpose in education. They make an experience more interesting. This means people tend to pay more attention to it and retain the [relayed] information.”
Walters concludes, “Throughout the global pandemic, remote learning became a requirement. I can honestly say that because we had Sony’s Edge Analytics devices as our standard, we were ready for the unique way education adapted.”
Click on “View Slideshow” on upper-left corner for images of the installation by AVI-SPL at UCM.