July 21, 2016

How the Squirrels Team Built a Giant Tree in the Middle of ISTE 2016

If you were at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio, you may have noticed the Squirrels team tucked away in a corner at a small 10’ by 10’ booth. That was our first year at ISTE, and we quickly realized it was THE place to be. ISTE is a mix of educators from around the world learning about new technology and sharing their experiences with others in the field. The people at ISTE are passionate about what they do, and they’re excited and eager to learn more. That passion drives us back to ISTE every year.

Fast forward three years… past Atlanta in 2014 and Philadelphia in 2015. Our trip to Denver this year was our fourth and largest, most ambitious ISTE yet. After attending ISTE 2015, we committed to making our ISTE 2016 presence bigger and bolder, and we did just that:

Squirrels Booth Iste 2016 Tree

Yes, you’re seeing that right. We built a giant tree in the middle of a conference hall.

HOW?!

Planning for ISTE starts months ahead of the actual show, and a lot of people don’t realize the show isn’t the deadline. Weeks before the show, everything needs to ship across the country.

Shipping steel, wood and a plastic tree is a challenge we’ll leave out of this post, but feel free to ponder…

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Shipping

In January (yes, that’s six months before the show), the creative team along with minds on the marketing and administrative teams sat down for a brainstorm. A few hours later, the walls were plastered with tradeshow booth best practices and examples from around the world. The white boards were full, and there was scratch paper everywhere. Everyone was tired, but what came out of that meeting was the start of what would become ISTE 2016 booth number 2945.

We tasked the creative team with designing five concepts that we could build on. One of those concepts was a giant tree, and obviously that’s the concept that made it through to the end.

ISTE Tree Booth Concept

In its original form, it was an actual tree. We priced out stage props, building our own and, among other ideas, bringing a real live tree. When we originally began talking about the tree idea, some of the team had the idea to create an abstract tree. After realizing a “real” tree wasn’t nearly as creative as we thought, we ran with the abstract idea.

Squirrels Booth ISTE 2016

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Concept

After the initial concept was accepted by the group, we needed to figure out how to actually build an abstract tree. Eventually, we realized we had the skills, tools and materials to do the job ourselves.

By this time, it was nearly May. The shipping deadline was mid June. We had roughly six weeks to fabricate and assemble a tree from scratch. Once we made the decision to build and assemble everything in-house, we had one more obstacle: Space.

We’ve got a roomy office, but it’s not roomy enough to build an 18-foot tree, walls and a presentation area. A local commercial real estate company graciously leased us a short-term building space. Whew, crisis averted.

We started with the tree. We knew what it should look like, but we didn’t know exactly how to build it. The initial concept was far from perfect, but it helped us morph to the final stages rather quickly.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Prototype

After realizing fiberglass poles were indeed the best way to create the outline of the tree canopy, we needed to figure out how to easily connect them while keeping everything structurally sound.

The initial connection pieces were printed with one of our office 3D printers. After some analysis and realization that the pieces may not be strong enough, we progressed to injection-molded plastic connectors.

ISTE 2016 Connectors

We didn’t have a plan for the canopy covering when we started. We progressed through multiple ideas including stretched fabric and polystyrene. We landed on green, semi-transparent acrylic sheets. Aka: PlexiGlass.

We purchased the acrylic material in 8 foot by 4 foot sheets. We have a lot of devices and machines that we like to experiment with here at Squirrels. It just so happens we have a laser cutter that’s perfect for cutting the acrylic material. So the triangle panels were laser cut to size in our office basement.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Laser Cut Panels

 

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Cut Panels Numbered

To attach those panels to the fiberglass frame, we 3D printed small connecting rods that held tight to the pole-based frame and then screwed into the acrylic with tiny thumb screws.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Panels on Frame

A real tree trunk needs to be structurally sound and able to hold the weight of everything above it. This is also true for our fake tree.

On the inside, a steel truss with custom-welded connection points holds the tree canopy in place safely.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Welded Frame

The “bark” of our tree was attached to a custom-welded steel frame as well. This frame, however, didn’t need to hold as much weight, as it was only covering the internal trussing system.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Frame

Tree roots are arguably the most important part of any tree. Without roots, trees can’t withstand wind, gravity and other forces.

We couldn’t just bolt the truss system to the floor. The Colorado Convention Center would probably look down on that type of action. So, our root system is built into the booth around the tree. The base of the trunk is bolted into the stage and held in place by the booth walls.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Roots

The walls we’re talking about look like one solid piece. However, four separate pieces comprise the middle dividing wall. Trust us, one piece is heavy enough. We didn’t want to move anything heavier.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Unfinished Walls

Now is a good time to mention how talented and creative our employees are. A few of them run a custom wood-working business in their free time. They made a little extra time to custom build our ISTE booth walls! The walls are built from cedar we removed during a renovation of our current offices.

The grass we used for the presentation side is actual outdoor grass carpeting used by professionals in backyards around the United States. It was nifty, easy-to-use and perfect for our tree-themed Squirrels booth.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Grass

 

Once everything was built at our warehouse, we shipped it across the United States. Reassembly in Colorado took about 8 hours, but the result was exactly what we wanted!

That’s how we built the “tree booth!” If you want to know more, feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below. We’re happy to explain everything!

 

July 20, 2016

Meet The Conference Screen-Sharing Solution You’ve Been Waiting For

Do you remember the last conference presentation you attended that didn’t include a visual aid? Neither do we!

Conference CenterEvery good speaker has a captivating stage presence and a thoughtful visual aid to accompany their words. Whether it’s PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi or something else, the presenter almost always needs to share what’s on their laptop with the audience.

This presents a problem for the average convention center or conference room. Is the presenter using a Mac or PC? Does the room have compatible connectors and cables to display the presenter’s screen? How about wireless capabilities? Does the room have an Apple TV or a Chromecast?

With the Ditto screen-sharing service, presenters don’t have to worry about any of that. Ditto makes screen sharing in conference rooms and meeting spaces simple and consistent.

What’s Ditto?
Ditto is a cloud-based service that brings unlimited and completely wireless screen-sharing capabilities to any room containing an Apple TV or Chromecast. It can be explained in two steps.

  1. Sign Up
    When you sign up for Ditto, the Apple TV or Chromecast in each room you are registering receives a unique connection code. How? Using our simple Ditto Configuration Tool. Trust us – you don’t have to be a tech genius to do this. We made the configuration tool to be used by the common professional. This configuration process is repeated for each room containing an Apple TV/Chromecast that needs registered.
  1. Begin sharing your Mac/PC screen
    After registering a room, sharing a Mac or PC screen to the Apple TV/Chromecast-connected display is easy. Anyone who needs to share their screen can simply visit connect.goditto.com and enter the unique room code. Since each code is tied to a specific Apple TV/Chromecast, it automatically knows which screen a user is trying to share their computer screen to.
    Ditto Connect Page July 2016After pressing “Launch,” Ditto will quickly save a one-time download to the user’s computer. Ditto will then give the user an option to either share their entire computer display or just a specific application (such as PowerPoint, an Internet browser, a photo app, etc.) to the big screen. When the user is done sharing their screen, they close the Ditto application and the one-time download is wiped from their computer.

Ditto is completely wireless. Presenters no longer have to fuss with those tangled, incompatible and confusing connection wires or cords often required to share content to the big screen. They also don’t need special software on their computer to connect wirelessly. That ability is built into the Ditto screen-sharing service.

Speaking of sharing content to the big screen, anyone can do it! A yearly subscription to Ditto is priced per room, not per user. Presenters, guests, employees – anyone – can immediately share their computer screen simply by entering the room code at connect.goditto.com because Ditto is completely unlimited.

Cross-platform connections
You may have realized this by now, but presenters are not bound by their computer brand in Ditto-powered rooms. Presenters using Macs can wirelessly share their screen to Apple TV OR Chromecast. Presenters using PCs can wirelessly share their screen to Chromecast OR Apple TV.

Presenters with iOS/Android phone and tablets
So what if speakers want to present from their iOS or Android device in a room that has the Ditto screen-sharing service? If Ditto is registered in a room with an Apple TV, then speakers can still present from iOS devices natively using AirPlay. If Ditto is registered in a room with a Chromecast, then speakers can present from Android devices and Chromebooks natively using Google Cast.

Reflector 2
The only perceived limitation is iOS devices in rooms with a Chromecast and Android devices in rooms with an Apple TV. This issue is resolved if the conference room or speaking hall has our Reflector AirPlay/Cast receiving software ($14.99) installed on an in-room computer. Reflector allows presenters to wirelessly display their Android, iOS and Chromebook screens onto a Mac or PC. If the Reflector-enabled computer is connected to an external display, the speaker can present from his or her mobile device.

Ditto screen sharing
Questions? We’re happy to answer all of them! Leave us a comment in the comment section below or contact our sales team.

Or, to bring the Ditto screen-sharing service to your conference hall today, visit www.goditto.com.

July 18, 2016

Ditto Screen-Sharing Service Adds Audio Support

The Ditto screen-sharing service now includes audio support in addition to its screen-sharing capabilities. Many users have been requesting this feature since the Ditto launch in early June. The addition of audio is rolling out for existing users over the next few hours.

Ditto for Windows Audio: No action needed. The next time you open Ditto, you’ll be able to mirror audio along with video.

Ditto for Mac Audio: Requires the AirParrot 2 audio driver to be pre-installed on your Mac. If your Mac already has our AirParrot 2 desktop mirroring software, you don’t need to do anything.

If your Mac does not have AirParrot 2, download the AirParrot 2 trial and open the application. You should be prompted to install the drivers. If you are not prompted, open the AirParrot 2 preferences, click the General tab and click “Install missing drivers” button. That will install the required audio drivers on your Mac to enable Ditto audio. The needed audio drivers will remain after the AirParrot 2 trial is over.

Enjoy the update! As always, let us know if you have any questions in the comments below or email support@goditto.com.

Why Screen Sharing Is Now A Must-Have Feature In Common Rooms

Screen-sharing is now a must-have feature of common rooms and public meeting spaces. It’s 2016. Our entire lives seem to revolve around our computers, but computers are inherently personal. When it’s time to show friends, family or coworkers what’s happening on those little computer screens, our infrastructure always seems to fall short.

We created the new Ditto screen-sharing service to make sure that’s not a problem anymore.

It’s simple:

  • Any room that has an Apple TV or Chromecast can sign up for a Ditto subscription
  • Ditto assigns that room a unique code word
  • Anybody with a Mac or PC can instantly (and wirelessly) share their screen to the big screen by entering that code word into connect.goditto.com

Cross-platform connections

Believe it or not, Mac users can wirelessly connect to Chromecasts, and PC users can wirelessly connect to Apple TVs. And vice versa.

Unlimited screen sharing

Ditto brings screen-sharing to an unlimited number of users because a subscription to the service runs on a room-by-room basis, not a user-by-user basis. This eliminates the need to spend thousands of dollars on individual user licenses.

Wireless screen sharing

We mentioned that it’s 2016, right? Wires and cords are no longer required to share content to the big screen. Things we recommend doing with those old cables:

  • Cut them
  • Throw them in the closet
  • Fashion them into abstract jewelry
  • Bury them in a time capsule but never dig the time capsule up again

Dongle Earring

Really, the list goes on. Just don’t use them to try to establish a restrictive, tangled, incompatible wire-based computer connection. Whew, onward!

Intuitive screen sharing

Are you in a building with multiple Apple TVs or Chromecasts? No problem! Ditto knows which Apple TV or Chromecast to connect your computer screen to the moment you enter the room’s code word at connect.goditto.com. So you don’t have to scroll through an endless list of AirPlay/Cast receivers and determine which one to select.

Full screen or app-specific screen-sharing

Upon connection, Ditto gives you the option to share your entire computer display or a single window/app to the Apple TV or Chromecast. This helps remove distractions and ensures that the other people in the common room don’t see anything they shouldn’t. Privacy matters!

Ditto Connection Table

Ditto screen sharing

Any peer, guest or friend can walk into the shared common area and instantly show their Mac or PC screen on the Chromecast/Apple TV-connected display.

To bring the Ditto screen-sharing service to your common room or shared meeting space, visit www.goditto.com.

July 14, 2016

A Workplace Screen-Sharing Solution For Small Business

The latest business technology is often designed or priced for large companies with big budgets.

But that’s not our style.

Meet Ditto
Our latest screen-sharing service, Ditto, is practical and efficient in any workplace environment. Even the smallest teams of business professionals will enjoy the ability to share their computer screens instantly, wirelessly and without the all-too-common confusion that comes with cords, additional software and long lists of AirPlay/Cast receivers.

DittoDisplay-1

A meeting. A brainstorm. A touch base. A powwow. Call it what you want, but small businesses meet a lot. How do these professionals share the valuable data, documents and forecasts contained on their computer screens with everyone else in the room? There often isn’t a great answer for small businesses.

Cable and cord connections?
Bad. Using connector cords in your conference rooms is like using pencil and paper to write business documents. Cords have a tendency to be confusing, incompatible with a wide range of devices and they always seem to disappear from the conference room, don’t they?

Ditto is wireless.

Screen-sharing software?
While there are some good screen-sharing and streaming software solutions on the market, it often requires a larger budget and licenses for each individual user.

Permanent software requires routine updates from time to time. Ditto lives in the cloud, so it doesn’t take up computer storage space or require any user software updates, which is good because we know you all select “Update Later” every time anyway.

Don’t forget… no software management means no individual license management either!

How Ditto works
Ditto allows any employee or guest to instantly share their computer screen to any external display that’s connected to an Apple TV or Chromecast. When your business signs up for Ditto, each conference room or meeting space that has an Apple TV/Chromecast receives a unique Ditto room code. Anyone can instantly share their computer screen to the projector, TV or external display in the room simply by entering that code at connect.goditto.com.

Ditto Sign In

Yes, it’s really that easy.

Ditto is unlimited. Any employee or guest can use the service. If you have a client or business partner coming in for a meeting, that person can share their screen without needing special permissions or extra software to do it.

Lisencemanagement

Priced for small business
Ditto is priced to be a viable solution for both small and large businesses. It runs on an annual fee per room, not per user like most business software. At $149.99/year per room, Ditto costs hundreds to thousands of dollars less than alternative screen-sharing solutions.

See? Your small business isn’t too small for the latest technology. Get started with Ditto by visiting www.goditto.com. As always, feel free to ask us any questions or give us feedback in the comment section below!