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MIT Technology Review

Magic Marker

September 1, 1999

Meeting hell: Someone-most likely your boss-is scribbling ideas, dates and numbers onto a whiteboard faster than you could ever copy them onto your notepad. Eventually you give up, hoping that somebody else has kept a better record than you have. If the room has an electronic whiteboard, of course, you’re in luck-but such devices, which cost thousands of dollars, are far from being standard conference-room equipment.

Now comes a gadget-the mimio, from MIT spinoff Virtual Ink of Cambridge, Mass.-that captures the markings made on any ordinary whiteboard in real time and stores them on a PC for future perusal. The device consists of a portable sensor bar that attaches with suction cups to any flat writing surface-even a windowpane will do. A cable connects the bar to a PC. Ordinary markers are held in special ultrasound-emitting jackets; as the marker moves, the sensor tracks its motion by computing the ultrasound’s travel time. The jackets even emit an infrared signal that indicates the marker’s color.