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June 11th, 2009

Read Part 1 here if you missed it!

Although there are a few kinds of Audience Response Systems (ARS)ARS Rentalthey all seek to do the same thing and feature various options to meet your specific information-gathering and interactivity requirements. A typical ARS comprises the following components:

  • a base station (essentially a receiver)
  • keypads for every participant
  • ARS software on the presentation computer

The computer that is running the ARS software connects to the base station/receiver and, as it also runs the presentation software, to the projector itself. The various ARS software applications have different minimum computer system requirements, so make sure you are using the right combination of components.

A typical ARS-enabled presentation would run like this:

  • ARS software is installed on the computer that runs the presentation software and projector
  • Base station is connected to the presentation computer
  • Presenter poses a question, offering a selection of responses
  • Participants use keypads to make their choices
  • Participants’ answers are sent to the base station then stored in a database component of the ARS software
  • The software calculates and displays a graphic describing the results
  • Data can be accessed later and presented in various reporting formats

Types of ARS’s

Early systems used wired keypads but most professional ARS applications now use wireless models. The two technologies used are RF (radio frequency) and (IR) infrared. The newest offering is browser-based software, which routes response data via an IP address, a system that obviates the need for keypads—wireless laptops, netbooks and hand-helds (Palm PDA’s, Pocket PC’s or browser-equipped cell phones) can be used instead. Let’s take a look at each.

RF systems are well suited to larger group environments. The base stations and keypads are typically larger than infrared models and, despite being bulky, can accommodate a larger number of participants and longer ranges. No line-of-sight is required because radio signals are used.

IR systems are good for small to medium-sized environments such as executive meetings, corporate training and college classrooms. As IR keypads need line-of-sight to the base station, they won’t work in large rooms, and sunlight affects IR transmission outdoors. Although not as powerful as RF systems, IR systems are lightweight and affordable.

Browser-based ARS’s are an emerging technology in early development. A software-only system, they are compatible with existing wireless devices. IP addresses are assigned to polling sessions and participants log in via their own wireless devices (phones, PDAs, laptops). Data is transmitted by wi-fi then displayed for the audience by the projector, as well as on every participant’s device.

Final considerations

In both the world of business and higher education, Microsoft’s PowerPoint is far and away the most popular presentation software. More than a few companies have developed plug-ins enabling a presenter to seamlessly integrate polling data into pre-fab PowerPoint presentations.

ARS’s don’t just collect data for display. They also have reporting functions to help analyze it. The pre-formatted reports export Excel and other common file formats, making possible participant tracking and grading for those in training and education environments. For corporate environments, the advantages are clear—an ARS is a “hearing aid” that gets good information and ideas that would otherwise be missed. CRE can equip your next conference or meeting so you don’t miss out on any great new ideas!

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