Kaptivo Digitizes the Whiteboard for Classrooms and Researchers at Rice University

Rice University is one of the world’s top research Universities. Rice has played an important role in the development of technology over the years. . . Rice fosters a student-focused learning environment and has long been at the forefront of innovation in learning technology. Not only does the university maintain a very desirable teacher to student ratio, but it has never been afraid to try something new. When Rice went digital in its classrooms in 2002, they were way ahead of the curve. In fact, the university was using 4K video for presentation and research before ESPN made it famous.

As Internal Consultant for Facilities, Planning & Project Management, Derek Rabuck is an enterprise architect who designs, tests, builds, fixes and supports AV tech for the school. “I deal with every type of technology you can imagine,” said Rabuck. “When a new capability is called for, I’m the R&D, security, networking, installation and support specialist that makes it happen.”

The challenge: higher quality instruction, more efficient research

Rabuck is tasked with providing technologies that improve not only the classroom experience, but also that add efficiency to the research process. In the classroom, he needed technology that would make it so that everyone could more easily see what’s on the whiteboard–not just students who might have their view obstructed by a bad angle, poor seating choice or due to vision problems, but also students participating via distance learning online. “I have a room that’s so wide that not everyone can see the whiteboard,” said Rabuck. “We needed to rectify the situation–everyone needs the highest quality instruction, not just those students lucky enough to get good seats.”

Additionally, professors needed a way to capture the information they were presenting on the whiteboard–to save and publish notes from the lectures. Having people take photos was too disruptive and simply not a workable solution.

However, the need to save and share information gathered on a whiteboard extended well beyond the classroom into the various research teams, who often brainstormed, presented and iterated on new concepts on boards. “The information they’re putting up on those boards can be extremely valuable,” said Rabuck. “They needed a way to ‘dump the data’ from the whiteboard into digital formats.”  And they also needed a way to integrate whiteboards into video conferencing sessions with remote colleagues–a major challenge due to the difficulty of getting a reliable whiteboard image from a webcam.

The solution

Rabuck had spent about eight months researching technologies to solve these challenges, when he was introduced to Kaptivo, which uses patented digital image processing to render a “perfect” version of the whiteboard. It looks exactly like what’s on the board, but better–no glare, smudges, or people in the way–and it improves legibility and crispness for easier reading.

The Kaptivo device is installed above any standard dry-erase whiteboard, and you view the board via a web browser or through a video conferencing tool like Zoom, Polycom, Blue Jeans,  or Lifesize. Kaptivo automatically chronicles your entire whiteboard session in real-time. When a significant change is made, a new snapshot is automatically saved in a timeline and made downloadable as PDFs. With a price point that’s a fraction of the least expensive smartboard, it presented a feasible way to connect whiteboards digitally across the campus.

From the classroom to Mars

Kaptivo devices have now proliferated at Rice. In the classroom, professors can freely leverage whiteboards to present their knowledge and ideas without worrying about whether or not students can see what they’re writing, or if the information will be lost when it’s erased. With the click of a button, instructors can save their whiteboard notes, and students can download them without worrying about what they might have missed.  

Additionally, Kaptivo is now a standard fare in labs, offices, conference rooms and huddle rooms, enabling researchers and other teams to record, save and share their ideas without having to do anything beyond what they were doing before: writing on a whiteboard. “It’s a way for them to instantly retain their data, which is critical in any kind of research, and stands in stark contrast to the ‘stop, photograph, send to myself’ approach that was employed before Kaptivo.”

As a case in point, the Geology department had outfitted a faculty member with a 3D interactive lab for a special project involving research on Mars, and needed a way to write over a live screen. Smartboards, it turned out, did not provide the resolution to do justice to the complexity of her work, but Kaptivo has allowed her to perfectly capture a timeline of concepts, notes, drawings and diagrams without any loss of clarity or information. After testing the first Kaptivo device, the department immediately purchased several more units to outfit their labs.

“This product is a game changer for AV tec, and I’d list it as one of the top five technologies that has benefited us,” said Rabuck. “The technology itself will only continue to grow, and will be used going forward for years to come.”