for Technology Review's FREE daily newsletter.
By Charles Q. Choi Innovation
Imagine that your mobile phone or PDA had a display the size of a
laptop’s but still fit snugly in your pocket. Hardware engineers at
several companies are working on miniature video projectors that
promise just that. Using projection, “you can make an image larger
than the size of the device you carry,” says research scientist
Ramesh Raskar of the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in
Key to the new projectors are lights small enough to squeeze into
a PDA-sized gadget but bright enough to display crisp images.
Lumileds Lighting in San Jose, CA, has built a prototype projector
roughly the size of a pocket camera that employs small, powerful
light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to throw an image the size and
brightness of a laptop’s screen onto any white surface. The
Mitsubishi lab is using LEDs to build an even smaller projector,
about the length and width of a credit card.
The first pocket-sized projectors, available within the next
three years, will probably be stand-alone accessories priced at $300
to $900, the companies predict, but the ultimate goal is to fit them
inside handhelds. And with camera phone owners snapping photos by
the thousands—manufacturers will ship an estimated 800 million
camera phones by 2007—a built-in projector that displays photos in
larger formats could be a big draw for cellular customers.
Beyond that, says Adrian Cable, director of Light Blue Optics, a
spinoff of the University of Cambridge in England that is developing
a holographic miniprojector, “You can imagine a video analogue of
the iPod that you could download DVDs into” and use as a portable
cinema projector. And that would be infinitely cooler than a pocket