Site Network: Home |

Turning Cell Phones Into Projectors

Turning Cell Phones Into Projectors
Elizabeth Corcoran, 05.20.09, 06:00 PM EDT
Forbes Magazine dated June 08, 2009

Put a projector in your pocket.

Transistors soak up much limelight in the digital world. But the backstage heroes are lasers: Red lasers brought us compact discs and cheap long-distance communications. Blue lasers, which cram even more data into a small spot, became a hit around 1999 and have made possible Blu-ray DVDs.

Now comes the third color needed to create a vibrant picture: green. In early May Corning ( GLW - news - people ) said it had finally licked production problems in creating "synthetic" green lasers. Tiny video projectors using Corning's components could reach the market by autumn. The goal: packing a brilliantly sharp video projection system into a cell phone.

Coloring the dreams of technologists now, however, are exquisitely tiny low-cost projectors, ones small enough to tuck inside a mobile phone or even a pair of glasses. To affordably make projectors on that scale, the industry is pushing technology further--including turning to lasers that will emit green light.
Corning started making lasers in earnest in the late 1990s as an element of its fiber-optic telecom business. The firm scooped up some of the technical talent that had created the optical amplifiers and other components that made long-distance lines cheap: scientists who had previously worked for Bellcore and AT&T Bell Labs during those labs' heyday.

Corning spent another three years refining its green lasers. The development effort has absorbed tens of millions of dollars, says Newhouse. "Keeping a laser fab is not inexpensive," he says. Competitors are afoot: A few high-end synthetic green lasers exist. Germany's Osram is close to finishing its own version of a synthetic green laser intended for mass production.

Demand for these devices is expected to be voracious. Market research company Insight Media predicts sales of embedded tiny projectors (i.e., small enough for a cell phone) could be $1.1 billion by 2012. Stand-alone "pico projectors" that plug into a laptop may hit $2.5 billion, notes Insight President Christopher Chinnock. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January a half-dozen companies, including cell phone and laptop makers, showed off gadgets with embedded projectors. In April Samsung said it was shipping a mobile phone with an embedded projector to customers in Korea. (That phone uses ti's DLP projection technique.) Nokia ( NOK - news - people ) and Motorola ( MOT - news - people ) have designs in the works, too.

Microvision ( MVIS - news - people ) in Seattle is putting Corning's green laser into its microprojector "display engine," which it aims to sell for a few hundred dollars to gadgetmakers.

"How many times are you looking at the information on your cell phone and you say, 'If I could have a larger screen this would be so much more enjoyable'?" asks Microvision Chief Alexander Tokman.

Tokman rattles off the specs of Microvision's widget, which he says will be shipping by late summer. It will measure 5 cubic centimeters, the volume of a teaspoon. Its power draw is modest, making it possible for a device the size of a smart phone to project a 90-minute movie on one battery charge. The picture it displays is bright and clear, casting a crisp 1-foot-diameter image on a wall 1 foot away and an equally sharp 6-foot-diameter image on a wall 6 feet away. Once Microvision is making large volumes of its component, Tokman believes, the devices will cost equipment makers $100 apiece. Carriers might even choose to subsidize that expense to spur consumers to spend more on movies and photos, he says.

Microvision, which went public in 1996, has had a roller-coaster history of promising sci-fi-like devices--such as head-mounted displays--that it has had trouble delivering. Still, the number of companies scrambling to hit the green button suggests that this trend has a bright future.


Post a Comment

This website does not recommend the purchase or sale of any stocks, options, bonds or any investment of any kind. This website does not provide investment advice. Disclaimer and Notices: Disclaimer: This website may contain "forward-looking" information including statements concerning the company's outlook for the future, as well as other statements of beliefs, future plans and strategies or anticipated events, and similar expressions concerning matters that are not historical facts. The forward-looking information and statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, the statements. The information on this website includes forward looking statements, including statements regarding projections of future operations, product applications, development and production, future benefits of contractual arrangements, growth in demand, as well as statements containing words like believe, estimate, expect, anticipate, target, plan, will, could, would, and other similar expressions. These statements are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results could differ materially from the results implied or expressed in the forward looking statement. Additional information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward looking statements are included in MVIS most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the heading 'Risk factors related to the company's business,' and our other reports filed with the Comission from time to time. Except as expressly required by Federal securities laws, MVIS Blog undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, changes in circumstances, or other reasons. Legal Notice: Although considerable care has been taken in preparing and maintaining the information and material contained on this website, MVIS Blog makes no representation nor gives any warranty as to the currency, completeness, accuracy or correctness of any of the elements contained herein. Facts and information contained in the website are believed to be accurate at the time of posting. However, information may be superseded by subsequent disclosure, and changes may be made at any time without prior notice. MVIS Blog shall not be responsible for, or liable in respect of, any damage, direct or indirect, or of any nature whatsoever, resulting from the use of the information contained herein. While the information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. MVIS Blog has not independently verified the facts, assumptions, and estimates contained on this website. Accordingly, no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to, and no reliance should be placed on the fairness, accuracy, or completeness of the information and opinions contained on this website. Consequently, MVIS Blog assumes no liability for the accompanying information, which is being provided to you solely for evaluation and general information. This website does not contain inside information, proprietary or confidential information learned or disclosed as part of employment relationships or under nondisclosure agreements or otherwise.