1. What is it about
Imagine you live in a world that the concept of a screen no longer exists. You no longer need to have a fairly large gadget (like a TV) to view films or play games. Imagine when any wall can be a display and just about any device can produce a large screen for you on any wall you want. You no longer have to look at a tiny screen of a mobile phone and hope that you can actually read it. Your experience goes from ‘lean forward and squint’ to ‘sit back, watch and enjoy’, making your experience a lot richer and more rewarding.
2. Where is the fun
- Using a large screen indoors or outdoors to share your images and videos with friends and family will be a whole new experience.
- While hill-walking, project the map from your mobile device into a large rock to see where you are and where you should be heading.
- Project your presentation or your documents into a wall when you are having a conversation with your colleague.
- Project widgets such as weather, clock, tasks, appointments, stock prices, news, etc. into walls around your environment at home or at your work place.
- Use many micro projectors as multiple displays projecting into a single wall.
- Watch movies on the back of a seat in cars, trains and airplanes projected from your mobile video device.
3. What are its Applications
The world of future highly depends on digital displays and a cheap portable solution capable of projecting a large screen is the ultimate goal of this technology.
The projectors can be used in just about any industry that deals with information. Whether laser-based projection becomes more efficient than LCD screens is yet to be decided.
4. How developed is it
Microvision is involved in the design of such laser-based projectors. They are already planning to release their product to market by 2008. They are also researching the use of this technology in Virtual Retinal Displays that project a screen directly into the retina of your eyes. Motorola is interested in integrating Microvision’s projector in their mobile phones and no doubt others such as LG will follow suit, apparently to release something by 2010.
Other developers such as Explay are working on extremely small projectors which they call nano-projectors.
5. How can it be improved
The most obvious challenge to overcome is power. The bigger or brighter the projection, the more battery it needs, which is something that is always limited in a mobile device.
Another important issue when using a micro projector placed in your hand is to keep the display steady while projecting into a wall. Motion sensors (such as those used in Wii) can detect the orientation and acceleration of the mobile in your hand and based on that modify the angle at which the screen is projected such that the display will be fixed to a certain position on the wall. Another method is to use a camera to detect features of the wall and use them to fix the orientation of the display no matter how the mobile phone turns or twists (within reason). We are of course far away from addressing this challenge.
6. What does it lead to
The society is going in a direction where access to information will be essential. The information needs to be displayed to us everywhere. Apart from mobile devices, notice boards, signs, menus, conference agendas shown by the door of the conference room and even adverts on billboards will no longer be static but will be similar to what we see on the Internet today. Cheap low powered micro projectors can be used in many places to replace the need for placing paper-based posters. The content displayed can be changed at will wirelessly which also reduces the cost of poster replacement. Of course there are other competing technologies such as Flexible Displays which may prove to be more efficient for certain applications.
As for adverts, even smaller versions will become dynamic too. Probably sometime in the future, there will be some guidelines towards what can and cannot be displayed in dynamic ads. A distracting advertisement can be lethal when you are driving and may lead to death, a distracting advert on the Internet will simply be annoying.
Micro Projectors can revolutionise the way we use mobile devices. In line with other developments to make mobile phones more functional and similar to PCs, a large display device will be of great benefit.
Interestingly, micro projectors may also lead to 3D displays. Two projectors can be used to show two slightly different images on top of each other with correct polarization which if viewed with polarised glasses may result in seeing a 3D world. 3D visualisation may even become the killer app of this technology, if micro projectors become cheap enough and they can produce good quality 3D visuals.