The latest tech innovation is making remote-work easier than ever. But is it worth the investment?
The Vibe smart board in a promotional demo.
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!
March 10, 2021 3 min read
When Peter Handy meets virtually with customers, video chat just won’t do. He runs Bristol Seafood, an upscale fish-supply startup, and wants to wow them with new fillet cuts and food presentations.
So instead of sitting at a computer, Handy stands in front of a 55-inch “smart board.” It’s called a Vibe, and it’s a little like those election-night touchscreens you see on CNN. But the Vibe is made for collaboration; it functions like a whiteboard but also integrates with platforms like Zoom, making it easy to see other chat participants, share your screen, work together on sketches, share files, annotate documents, and more. “It’s all about how you can make your business stand out right now,” says Handy.
As entrepreneurs try to improve their businesses remotely, a new industry of smart boards is rising to the occasion. They vary widely in cost and complexity — ranging from a cool $9,000 for Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2S 50-inch down to $599 for DTEN’s 27-inch Zoom for Home whiteboard. (Vibe is $2,999.) Less technical solutions are also available, like Rocketbook’s $15 Beacon clips, which digitize drawings from actual whiteboards.
But the appeal goes beyond just wowing a client. It’s about basic psychology, says Mike Feibus, principal analyst at the market research firm FeibusTech. “Comprehension and retention are both better when you handwrite something,” he says. Writing ideas can foster artistic expression and ideation, and leads to better brainstorming.
Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Creative Strategies, has found other benefits, too. She uses Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2S 50-inch. “For me, it’s the real estate of the screen,” she says. “I prefer to work while standing up. It’s a unique experience when I can step back and see my project spread out in front of me.”
To try one myself, I ordered a Vibe. It took about 10 minutes to assemble its stand, which was easy enough — though I needed help lifting the screen onto it. A colleague then picked up Vibe’s pen and mapped out his weekly schedule on the screen. “I could use this for hours,” he said. I had to agree.
Is a smart board destined for every home office? Maybe — but probably not until prices drop. These are premium products; the Vibe’s stand, for example, adds an extra $500. But experts say that, just like tablets once did, this new tech will become more affordable over time. Until then, they’ll benefit those who can afford them. “You have to provide really good service and relationship-building opportunities with your customers,” says Handy, the fish supplier. That’s worth more than $2,999 to him.
A Bevy of Boards
Best feature: This monster screen works on a Windows 10 operating system, making it just as powerful as a computer.
Best feature: Bluetooth allows you to connect to an external speaker while you sync and save notes to personal devices.
Best feature: Eight microphones, three wide-angle cameras, and stereo speakers take your Zoom experience to the next level.