The end of the projector

After having “taken the show on the road” and spending an inordinate amount of time giving presentations during the last year I came to the conclusion that what remains less than good enough for presentations is the variable quality of projectors.

The problem is not just quality of image but also the unpredictable size of screen, how far it is from the audience, how poor the contrast or color reproduction might be and to what degree there is support for wireless connections.

When presenting detailed, information dense graphs, these quality issues become presentation killers and not only do they result in poor retention for the audience but decrease the confidence of the presenter, leading to a vicious cycle.

The answer is not to lug around your own projector because many times the venue will not accept it, other times the image “throw” is not matched to the screen and it’s a pain to set up and transport.

What I think needs to happen is that the projector needs to be disrupted.

This is where the iPad and Perspective come into play. When presenting using Perspective we have the ability to “airshow” or present directly to the (iOS) devices that the audience has with them.

This way not only the presenter’s screen is “mirrored locally” but also the direct manipulation and choreography of the data reveal is instantly visible. You can see a fragment of how it works in this test:

This is the technique we use at the Airshow event and it has proven to work well even with large audiences. To see it in action (and to learn how to develop presentations into cinematic experiences) join us at the next Airshow in Chicago.

  • Zak


    This is definitely an interesting technique. However, I do think that there are a number of considerations that hinder the effectiveness of Airshow. Chiefly, if my iPad is dedicated as a display, how do I take notes or jot down additional information that may only be delivered verbally? We know that writing is crucial for memory, recall, and contextualization of presented information.

    Also, the current $50/yr cost for Perspective Pro and 10 client limit for Airshow are both prohibitive in larger educational environments where a class could be anywhere from 20-200 students. We want to drive every student to create and share content rather than simply receiving it, as this also strengthens their own understanding.

    Is the learning environment I’m describing simply outside the design goals and intended use cases for Perspective?

    • Farshad Nayeri

      Learning environments are *absolutely* in our path.

      Yours are important considerations in the short term. In the medium term they should be straightforward to overcome.

      Re: limits, We have put in a soft limit for Airshow as this is only the first version, but Perspective’s system architecture is designed to scale up, and your targets are definitely attainable. (If you would like your use case to be included in our trials write us at

      Re: taking notes, Today: you can four-finger swipe to switch in and out of Perspective into Notes or any other App, when you come back the App will catch up. Keep in mid that you are not in some sort of a “webcast”, the entire story you are watching resides on your iPad and you can go back to it to review later. The presenter has the choice to publish his “performance” (voice and interactions) as an update. And, noting is stopping us to allow you to take notes right *within* the story and right in context.

      • Zak

        Thanks for your reply Farshad. It’s clear that you have given a lot of thought to how this fits into larger learning environments. I’ve been following the app since Horace began teasing it a few years ago, and the progress is impressive. I’ll follow up with more specifics via the website.

    • check out, doesn’t have the 10 client limit if you upgrade to the pro version.

  • Marc Palmer

    I thought of a similar solution for coding conferences – but while I am a totally native app fanboy, I would execute this as a streaming webapp app using websockets or similar – because you can very rarely dictate the equipment attendees use.

    For code based conferences this is particularly useful as code samples are rarely legible on screens for the reasons you cite. The ability to have side channels for technical conferences would be killer too.

  • obarthelemy

    If it’s to be looking at my own screen on my lap , why go to a conference ?

    • whatsthediff

      What’s the practical difference between looking away from the presenter at a projector screen and doing the same thing with an iPad, in this case?

      • El Aura

        More consistent and overall better ‘viewing quality’ in different venues. Of course, if all venues can offer a very high ‘viewing quality’ this point is moot. Maybe sometimes it is easier to get iPads than to build or equip a room such that it overs a good ‘viewing quality’.

      • whatsthediff

        I meant, obviously in context, why would moving the display from a projector to an iPad make going to the conference unnecessary, as obarthelemy suggested. I understand the advantages, they were clearly outlined in the post.

    • Adrian

      I’ve been to more than a few conferences where the seats I obtained were not so great to view the screen. Having the ability to focus on the screen in front (iPad), actually see it and understand it together with the audio/presentation I am hearing, might result in more knowledge transfer. How many times does one tune out when not having the ability to be fully immersed I wonder?

    • Joe

      Did you actually consider the jobs to be done of attending conferences before posting such a silly comment? Social interaction, networking, etc….

      Why would you go to a conference that has just has one screen showing PowerPoint presentations but avoid attending one with Airshow?

      Why go to any conference when you can get the PowerPoint slide later?

    • The answer is, of course, in what you hire conferences for.

  • This presumes the slides are what is important in a presentation, and all due respect to Horace, its the wrong focus. Slides should illustrate should augment, should enhance the presenter’s talk. It is the presenter who is central and all eyes should be up on them, not down on an iPad.

    To wit, this is the best presentation ever on how to give presentations:

    • Mark Jones

      This doesn’t presume the slides are what’s important; it presumes that the slides enhance understanding of the presenter’s points, whether they’re shown on a big screen further away from the participants or on a smaller screen close to the participants. In either case, the participants eyes have shifted from the presenter, as the presenter recognizes that the participants gain a far better understanding from seeing the supporting data from a chart, instead of hearing it via spoken words.

    • Farshad Nayeri

      @wayan:disqus ,

      World-class presenters convey their message without using any props. Martin Luther King did not need any slides or graphics department to deliver “I have a Dream”. The rest of us may need some help.

      It is widely agreed that PowerPoint (originating as a as tool to make projector “overhead transparencies”) is the wrong kind of help. There has been many reactions to this failure:

      One idea has been to continue to use PowerPoint but use it in “limited” ways. Take the Lessig-style for example; he uses slides as background imagery for his point. The problem is : since medium defines the message, if you start with PowerPoint as your language (or Keynote for that matter) you will end up with something of slideware quality.

      Others have decided to exert a lot of energy into creating a great presentation with high “production quality”. Much of the time these are hand-crafted “builds” and special effects. The talk you linked rightly points out that as commoners, most of the time this is not something we can afford. (Al Gore’s documentary cost $1M.)

      Some react to PowerPoint’s failing to demote the content and make the speaker the center. As audience with “social” brains so we feel comfortable watching the speaker hand wave or look in our eyes to “connect”. This is the primary solution presented by the talk you linked. However, a social connection is very poor, and low-bandwidth medium for communicating information.

      We have taken a different path. We think the *content* should be the center. The speaker is there to convey a message about the content. Otherwise why present any content at all? Just get in front of audience and use your index cards to talk. Those of us who lived before the popularity of personal computers know this is possible.

      FWIW, I watched Mark Cogiusta’s presentation (with some difficulty, I have to admit..:-)) He makes some good points…However, the missing part in _your_ argument is that Mark’s commentary is applicable to the status quo powerpoint presentations. In fact, his sentiments resonate with our concerns of the status quo at the beginning of our journey a couple of years ago. We started with the sort of objections he makes and asked “How can we rethink the medium so it doesn’t have this problem?”

      For example, Mark mentions Al Gore’s Inconvenient Turth, which we have studied closely. He is right that this movie took an award-winning PowerPoint design firm with tens of design staff, and a 1M budget, an award winning director, a 20-foot projector screens, and undoubtedly many months. In contrast, a good storyteller with a solid Perspective App can use his iPad and create an emotive, informative, “motion” presentation with orders of magnitude less time (matter of hours) and without the need of an Army of graphics, data charting,… experts.

      Airshow feature is just another step in this direction.

      • If you have seen iOS 7 on the retina iPad you will realize that the stunning visual effect can only be appreciated on another iPad. Is the Airshow feature code of your app available to licence for inclusion in third party apps?

      • MOD

        To think that the greatest speakers don’t use props is a fallacy that is being continued here.
        MLK used a public square, a podium, a microphone, amplification, a “hallelujah” chorus of supporters, in addition to notes, pens, paper, etc.

        All these are very sophisticated props, even now. If you think oratory skill is enough to have the impact of an MLK speech just try it. You will immediately realize what sophisticated tools are necessary, for everyone.

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  • Force people into silos? Your audience population is drying up daily. Furthermore with Glass (and this will be the preferred interface in 5 years when attending a presentation) they don’t need to look down. Something the author might not know because as best I can tell he has not commented on Glass on this blog.

    Glass is forcing developers who were fanpeople to adopt Android for the complete experience and in the process see the benefit of its open-ness for the first time. Apple had better open up soon or else. If they were smart they’d busy themselves by riding in Google’s slipstream and getting all the key iOS apps to work for Glass.

    The future will be much different from the present, even if there are many parallels and parables on which to draw. Maybe the biggest takeaway here is not the clarity of the screen, but seeing the forest for the trees.