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A Peek at Pico Projectors

Is a projector in the hand worth one in the ceiling? That's one question facing pico projectors, a new breed of projectors designed for a variety of handheld applications, including cell phones aimed at the enterprise market.

The trade-off is between battery power and brightness. “You certainly can put more power into the device to get it brighter, or you can operate it in a mode that conserves power,” Moizio says. “My guess is that there would be multiple mode options.”

For instance, like the backlight-brightness settings on today's laptops and cell phones, pico projectors would let users manage power on their own. At the same time, pico projectors also would have some control over the device they're working with.

“When the unit is in operation, the thing that draws the most power on these mobile devices is the display,” Moizio says.“So when you're operating the projection function, we would anticipate that the manufacturers would turn off the other display. While the projector probably draws a little more power than that other display, it is almost a swap of power that's normally in the display.”


The brighter that a pico projector is, the more practical it will be in the eyes of potential users. In ambient light conditions, TI's second-gen pico projection technology can produce an image about the size of a sheet of notebook paper, Moizio says. But in a room that's completely dark, it can project an image up to 70 inches across.

That performance affects how pico projectors might be used and who would buy them. For users needing a pico projector only to show a quick slide or two, the ability to do so on a wall, tabletop, or whatever surface is available might be attractive to the point that it outweighs the small image size.

Depending on the manufacturer's design, pico projectors also can display content besides PowerPoint slides, such as photos and videos. That ability could be a plus for consumers and business users. A printing equipment manufacturer, for example, might be attracted to the ability to give an employee who has to display a schematic in the field a pico projector cell phone rather than issuing an expensive laptop that could get damaged. It's also an example of how pico projectors could create new markets for projectors rather than competing with portable and installed units. “I think there are separate markets and separate use applications,” Moizio says. “We don't envision it cannibalizing any other technology.”

For both consumers and business users — as well as cell phone manufacturers — pico projectors could be attractive because they offer a way around a long-standing problem: making screens large enough to comfortably view a variety of content types but without making the cell phone big and bulky in the process. A pico projector could give mobile gamers and business users a way to view games and Word documents, respectively, from a cell phone the size of a deck of cards.

“Whatever your phone can display, this projection would display bigger, with higher quality,” Moizio says.

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