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Redmond, WA company creates laser projector the size of an iPod



Redmond, WA company creates laser projector the size of an iPod

by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News
Posted on April 5, 2010 at 6:02 PM
Updated today at 6:55 PM

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REDMOND, Wash. -- We usually think of lasers as a pinpoint or streak of light. We might use it as a pointer during a presentation, or in a tool that tells us if the picture we're hanging on the wall is level.

But could lasers create an image of an actual picture, even in color? The answer is simple: yes. That's if you have the technology.

After more than a decade of research, Microvision put its SHOWWX projector onto the U.S. market Friday. The projector is the size of an Apple iPod and projects a 16x9 wide-screen standard definition onto anything.

There is no lens, so as you move the SHOWWX closer to or away from the wall, or even cock it an angle or show it into a corner, everything is in focus. You could use SHOWWX for Power Point presentations to small groups, show family photos or videos. If a device can output a standard video signal, Microvision says the SHOWWX can display it in full color.

"We've got three lasers, a red, a green and a blue," said Matthew Carmean, the SHOWWX's product manager. The projector is the size of an iPod, but unlike an iPod, it has an interchangeable rechargeable battery. But there is also a docking station to hook it up to a personal computer or a netbook.

At $549, it's not cheap. In the world of small digital projectors, it's at the higher end of the range, but it is the smallest and only laser based system.

Microvision says the SHOWWX projector is just one form of this laser technology. The heart of the system is the PicoP engine. It's a thin angular box that's not much bigger than a quarter. Inside is the lasers and a mirror that project the image one pixel at a time, really, really fast.

But the PicoP could be built into a lot of other things. Someday you might find a netbook with a projector built in, or maybe it lives inside your phone.

Marketing Director Matt Nichols says Intel's "Intel Inside" strategy is similar to what Microvision wants to do. Intel may not make the computer, but it makes the processor inside that allows everything else to work.

"Our strategy is that Microvision will be inside hundreds of devices." said Nichols.

OK, if you're hooked, how do you get this thing? Right now, it's only available from Microvision's Web site at www.microvision.com. But Nichols says it should be in stores by the second half of the year.

But while the projector is the first Microvision product on the market, it springs from a long line of research.

Microvision began in 1997 as a small startup near Boeing Field. The plan was to run with a technology that used low powered lasers to actually project an image directly into the eye. The technology literally paints a picture onto the retina. The advantage is that a person using the technology, such as a pilot or a tank commander or even a surgeon, can see data like compass headings and maps or an x-ray, without taking their eyes off their work. The laser picture is "see-thru."

Microvision has also developed camera technology that uses lasers to record an image in color. Such a camera would capture at a high level of detail and could be used in surgical and other applications.

As for high detail, a high definition model of the company's projector is in the works.

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