News Column

Image projection to match smarter phones

June 22, 2014

Smartphones keep getting cleverer, but their screens stay the same size. How do you solve a problem like that? Well, one company thinks holograms might be the answer.

Ostendo Technologies from California has been working on miniature projectors for nine years and has now created a device small enough to fit in a smartphone.

The lens is about the size of the nail on a little finger and can project a 48-inch video on to any surface.

Ostendo says it plans to roll out 2D-capable units in the first half of next year before following up with 3D models later in the year.

Ostendo founder Huseein S El-Ghoroury told the Wall Street Journal it was a logical move to build on the capacity of increasingly powerful phones.

"Over the years, processing power has improved and networks have more bandwidth, but what is missing is comparable display advances," said El-Ghoroury.

His company has received $90 million in funding from venture capital firms and secured $38m in contracts from Darpa, the US's future-obsessed Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (the guys who built the internet predecessor).

The key to making Ostendo's projectors work is the resolution. Science and tech site Phys reported the company's chips can tweak the colour, brightness and angle of beams of light "across a million pixels", while the Wall Street Journal reports a resolution of 5 000 dots per inch (by comparison, the retina display on the iPhone is around 300dpi).

In a demonstration, six of the chips selling at $30 each were used to create a 3D image of dice spinning in the air, with the image and motion of the objects reportedly appearing "consistent, irrespective of the position of the viewer".

If these 3D projectors can be manufactured at scale and slotted into smartphones for a reasonable price, they could be the next big thing, but figuring out when and how to use them is tricky.

For a start, hologram video calls in the style of Star Wars would be possible only if the person at the other end had a device capable of capturing 3D imagery.

And when it comes to more normal smartphone activities (browsing e-mail or looking through Facebook photos), why would you want to conduct these in such a public manner?

Despite this, it seems 3D imagery is going to be become more common. Facebook's$2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift looks set to push virtual reality goggles into the mainstream, while Amazon is working on its own smartphones with 3D screens.

The question is: will we take these devices seriously? - The Independent

Sunday Tribune

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Source: Sunday Tribune (South Africa)

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