Reviewed by: Timothy Barnett-Queen, PhD
Want to be able to do group presentations and teach classes from your iPad and not worry about your battery running low? Does the thought of maximum flexibility and mobility (i.e., being able to sit or stand at your podium/desk or walk around the room) excite you? If so, then the Launchpad’s LaunchPort may be for you.
Recently I attended CES. I’m a part-time device reviewer for technotraveler.com and a full time university professor. During my 3 day visit to Las Vegas, of all the exciting new products I found, this one caught my attention. For years I have taught higher education classes of all sizes using the latest computer and Internet-based technologies but have done so primarily immobilized at my electronic podium in front of the classroom. Using a university supplied desktop computer, my own laptop or lately an iPad, connected to a VGA LCD projector, even if I am lucky enough to have a remote control, I was still pretty much confined to the podium, especially if I was switching between applications (say for instance, jumping from Powerpoint to Video to Internet browser).
The LaunchPort System is a sophisticated solution to the group presentation mobility problem (among others). First, the Base Station ($199) is a beautiful, sturdy (weighs 3.6lbs) and compact (4.5”x5.0”x5.9’) piece of equipment consisting of a brushed aluminum stand that looks much like the metal Apple uses for its iMac stand (a Wall mount is also available but is not reviewed here). It is shaped as a 45-degree platform made to sit firmly on a table, stand or desk (its packaging is sturdy enough to be used for storage if necessary). Tucked inside the Base Station is an induction and charging node which provides connection to the Sleeve (in which your iPad is inserted). The Base Station can be locked to the presentation stand (lock is an accessory) so it can remain in a public place without being removed. The current Sleeve ($149) fits the iPad 3 only but I am assured by the manufacturer (and web-site) that soon a sleeve will be available for the iPad 4 and iPad mini.
There is a strong magnet in the Base Station which holds the Sleeve (with iPad in it) firmly to the Station. When connected by supplied DC power adapter, the transducer in the Base Station charges the battery of your iPad any time the Sleeve and Base Station are joined. However, when it’s time to move around the room, grabbing the sleeved iPad is simple and easy. When you return, just place the Sleeve near the center magnet on the Base Station and it grabs it from you and immediately begins charging. All this without the need for the 30-pin cable (or lightning cable on forthcoming Sleeves).
The connection to your LCD projector requires a couple of accessories. You will need the Apple TV ($99) and a $59 HDMI to VGA Adapter (such as the Kanex ATV Pro or Belkin’s adapter) if you use, like most classroom instructors, a VGA LCD projector. The iPad in the Sleeve can then be streamed to Apple TV using AirPlay. I tested this set up in my classrooms for about 2 months. The rooms I primarily teach in can seat up to 50 participants. Regardless of my location, the AirPlay connection between my iPad and Apple TV was maintained. I then was able to switch between applications with a touch of the screen. I teach multiple sections of my classes, back to back which means I’m using my iPad for 3-4 hours without a break. I do not have to worry about the device losing power since each time I return to the instructor podium I simply re-connect the Sleeve to the Base Station and battery charging begins immediately.
If you go to the Launchport website you will see that the company markets primarily to commercial, residential and medical facilities. Elementary classrooms are also highlighted, but primarily so teachers can stay in touch with students, if each student has a Launchport system and iPad. My vision of the use of this system, while currently and unfortunately requiring some additional technology (i.e., Apple TV and HDMI-VGA converter), solves a long standing problem higher education instructors have had to contend with when using multiple technologies in the classroom. Compared to replacing an out of date desktop computer/monitor in the classroom and/or a VGA LCD projector, the cost of the Launchport System with these 2 accessories is far less expensive and much more flexible. I will be watching to see if Launchport picks up on this idea and includes connectivity technology in future versions of its LaunchPort system. I certainly hope they do, but regardless, I will continue to use the system “as is” in my classrooms.
Our technotraveler.com rating: 9.5 out of 10.