Keyspan’s next product that really caught my attention was their Digital Media Remote (review). I purchased it as soon as it was released in late 1999 and I must admit to becoming reliant on it for my presentations using Powerpoint both in my lab for visiting faculty, staff, students and patients seeing presentations on the G4 PowerMac with Cinema Display as well as with my iBook on the road for presentations. Additionally, I tend to not like being stuck in front of one’s laptop, standing in back of a podium in favor of moving around a bit. The DMR’s infrared (IR) remote functions nicely for this allowing freedom of movement as long as you point the remote generally in the direction of the receiver that you plugged into your laptop. In fact, the DMR worked admirably when I used my iBook to host the presentations for the last FFB meeting for visual transplantation with Powerpoint presentations from about twenty speakers all using my little iBook and the DRM. For this meeting, to ensure a smooth flow to the presentations with a minimum of fuss, I volunteered my iBook and switched the presentations in the background in-between speakers while they simply handled the DRM remote from the front handing off from one speaker to the next. Scientists can be a picky bunch and sometimes hard to please, but the combination worked beautifully and my only complaints with the DRM have been that for presentations, the little buttons on the remote are not optimized for an ergonomic feel and one tends to have to hold the DMR in one hand while using the obligate laser pointer with the other hand.
Enter Keyspan’s new device, the Presentation Remote. The Presentation Remote differs from the DMR in a number of fundamental ways that target it more for the presentation environment rather than the media environment. First off, it features a radio frequency (RF) signal rather than an IR signal allowing for one to make their presentations without pointing in the general direction of the receiver/laptop combination. Additionally, they have also reduced the number of buttons on the remote while still providing right and left click functionality (nice for OS X), full mouse control, a mode button, composite switch, and here’s the kicker….a built in laser pointer all while making the remote more ergonomically friendly. I wanted one.
The remote comes packaged with the handheld remote, the USB RF receiver, a battery for the handheld remote, a documentation card and a nice little carrying case. Initially I was troubled by the lack of a software CD in the package but this turned out to be an advantage, as Keyspan thought ahead and required no additional software to load as the device is interpreted by your computer as being a keyboard or mouse. You simply plug it in and go. Excellent.
In use, the Presentation Remote functions nicely with good ergonomic feel in the hand and the laser pointer is quite bright and easy to access as opposed to some laser pointers I have used with either hard to reach buttons or buttons that get hard to push after talking for 45 minutes or so. The mouse control and left and right click functionality are easy to use as well allowing for remote operation of other functionality outside of the presentation software environment. I tend to like to embed all of my animations and video within the presentation software, but there are those times when you might like to navigate around another application to demonstrate something that the presentation software package is unable to perform and the navigation ability of the Presentation remote works well here.
After using the remote for a week and giving two presentations, I can honestly say that Keyspan has an impressive product. Any criticisms? Well, it would not be a proper review without something to criticize, and even those criticisms have nothing to do with the functionality of the remote. Rather they concern the supplied instructions which are not entirely clear and contain some inconsistencies. For instance, the instructions to deactivate the laser mode read: “To deactivate the laser again, hold down the Laser Pointer Button until the Mode Button flashes rapidly.” Well, you can hold down the Laser Pointer Button forever without deactivating laser mode. To truly deactivate the laser mode, one must hold down BOTH the Laser Pointer Button AND the Mode Button until the Mode Button flashes repeatedly. (This is the advantage of hiring a technical writer to review your documentation and perform end user testing). Alternatively, if the laser is not used for 30 minutes, the laser pointer mode is switched off automatically. The only other question I had involved the USB RF receiver which appears to have a little red LED on it that does not seem to have a function that I could determine, and a minor suggestion might be to place a little pocket in the carrying case for an extra battery for those road warriors who constantly travel to make presentations. Finally, the laser is a red wavelength laser and very bright, easily seen across a large conference room/ballroom, but for the true geeks among us (and some color blind folks), it might be nice to have green lasers available at extra cost. That is not really a complaint or indictment of the built in laser as the performance of this laser pointer in the Keyspan Presentation Remote leaves nothing to be desired.
Overall, the device is outstanding and well worth the price of entry. For those people that give presentations using their computers, this device is a must have and I will be toting it along with my iBook and the rest of my road warrior accompaniments.
What about the DMR? No, you can’t have it as I would never give that up. My Keyspan DMR while no longer on the presentation circuit, is now being used for what it probably is best optimized for, being a media remote control. It now resides at home, hooked up to our Powerbook powered home stereo system serving up our entire CD collection via iTunes.