Projector in a Cellphone?

5:50 PM -- I’ve been a fan, although not a jumping-up-and-down fan, of micro-displays in mobile devices for some time. One of the big challenges we face is how to get a big screen into a small package, and micro-displays in head-mounted form factors seem like a good idea, once one gets past the nerd factor, anyway. I must admit that, despite a wide variety of these on the market at very reasonable prices, I’ve never seen anyone using such while on the road. And, of course, if you wear eyeglasses, the ergonomics and comfort of such a combination leave much to be desired.

So, why not, instead of placing the display close to the eye, do the opposite -- use the micro-display to project an image into a flat surface? A company called Microvision Inc. (Nasdaq: MVIS) is in fact doing just that with a product they call PicoP. I’ve not spoken with them about this, but I suspect there will be issues with positioning the phone (these things are designed for style, after all, with lots of curved surfaces), image brightness, resolution, and overall quality, and perhaps... Who am I kidding here? No, certainly with battery life.

But Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has in fact signed a deal with Microvision to further develop the projector-in-a-cellphone idea. So there must be something to this, and, if it works, this could be another good reason to leave the notebook computer at home. In the interim, I’d be happy if I could just plug my handheld into a projector. And, while we’re at it, let’s forget the plug -- let’s use wireless. Yeah, I’d buy that -- and so would a lot of other road warriors out there.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

COMMENTS Add Comment
wap545 12/5/2012 | 3:04:06 PM
re: Projector in a Cellphone? Would even be better if I could project my images/slides on a wall from my PC instead of having to scrounge around to find a projector. Better battery life etc.
Always interesting to hear from you.

Why not write a speculative piece on what Intel will do with both the 802.11n (Access replacing 802.11a/b/g) and WiMAX based 700 Mhz systems (Access and backhaul) in their new Centrino line. Will this be all that would be needed??

Jim A.
farpoint 12/5/2012 | 3:04:02 PM
re: Projector in a Cellphone? Sure, why not in a notebook or other device? I think, though that the problem in this case will be one of ergonomics - how to position the notebook so that it's usable while being optimally angled at the wall or screen. Remote controls would be vital in this case.

As for the combination of Wi-Fi and WiMAX, I think that's a good possibility if the WiMAX operators (Clearwire, Sprint, and others) are successful with their offerings. I expect for now, however, that a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular (UMTS and CDMA families) will be more popular over the next few years, just because both of these are more established at present than WiMAX.

And thank you for your kind words!

Thx. Craig.
quelegrandcricmecroque 12/5/2012 | 3:03:58 PM
re: Projector in a Cellphone? Why not in a Laptop?
Because the future is in a mobile telephone. The PicoP projector is only the first step. With the next step the same type of projector will beam the image directly into the eye and coupled with an eye tracking system the user will be able to interact with the content of the image. Spontaneous marketing and a lot of other things.
I look forward. -el
farpoint 12/5/2012 | 3:03:50 PM
re: Projector in a Cellphone? There is no evidence that projecting an image directly on the retina, via a laser or otherwise, is harmful. But I personally would not try such a device until there are a lot of miles on the implementation. That's just me, but my eyes are too precious to be used in experiments of any form.

The bigger problem, though, as I noted in the original piece, is the nerd factor. Head-mounted displays just aren't part of the culture (yet?). And no technology is perfect - small devices with small screens, for example, don't work well for people over 40. But projecting an image might not work well either - for both security and logistical reasons.

The single-device paradox is alive and well, and just may be forever.

Thx. Craig.
t.bogataj 12/5/2012 | 3:03:50 PM
re: Projector in a Cellphone? The main question to answer is, what contents will need to be viewed this way. Why bother developing fancy solutions if there is no target market -- except to show off with technical excellency?

Well, there sure are technical areas where projecting an image directly on user's retina makes sense. But they are all specialized professional applications.

Will broad masses willingly wear weird goggles or other bulky device in front of their eyes just to enjoy the benefits of... "spontaneous marketing"? (I won't, that is for sure.)

And will (potential) users not be concerned with safety aspects of a mass-produced eye-piercing lasers?

tata, T.
AllKindsOfThings 12/5/2012 | 3:03:41 PM
re: Projector in a Cellphone? There is actually no reason to beleive anything will stop mankind in the long run from experimenting with even circumventing all this hassle of media type conversion, recoding, signal loss required by these "old style human sense connected I/O" methods.

As a real geek, why even bother to go through this ridiculously incomplete concept of TPYING to encode language for transmission? Why not simply learning how to "think & publish" directly to this blog ?

Lets use the term: "braincasting" for this for future reference :-)

No joking: They did (stupid, simplistic... all true) neuron level stimulation with cockroaches to achieve a remote control function for which direction they run.

If you extrapolate this a few decades sometime *will* start running direct neuron-level signal injection, directly encoded ready to use.

So then the question becomes why at all use a complex optical appratus like a laser beam tat ycould damage your sense, if you can overlay required additional input by some simple encoded signal and a "direct-b" library (direct brain interface)??

The "good already old" world of borg style, shapers and mechanists, or other "improves mankind" concepts - no matter if they discuss gentically of micromechanical or nanosopically developments - are seemingly getting less far fetched every day...

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