Funai is currently demonstrating a scanned laser picoprojector at CEATEC, which runs from October 6 - 10 at Makuhari Meese outside Tokyo. So what’s so special about a demonstration of a scanned laser picoprojector prototype while Microvision is on the verge of shipping commercial quantities of their unit?
Insight Media Analyst
The Funai unit, which has SVGA resolution and is based on two scanning mirrors from Nippon Signal, is more than just a picoprojector. It also has integrated touch feedback to control the image through the host computer. The projector actually generates two images using a beamsplitter, a large one for the projection screen and a small 5.7" image to provide the touch feedback. The size of the large image depends on the distance to the screen, and the maximum image size is controlled by lumen output of the projector and ambient light. Since laser projectors like this are always in focus and need no projection lens, both images are clear and sharp regardless of the distance to the projection screen.
When the user’s finger is placed in the small image, the back-reflection is changed and is detected by the projector. In a scanned laser projector, every pixel is displayed at a slightly different time, so by timing the change in the back reflection, the location of the finger can be measured. An on-line video demonstration of the ability to track a finger is available here. This is a very clever projector.
The projector design is similar to the recently released WVGA Microvision ShowWX picoprojector except the Nippon Signal design uses two scanning mirrors, one for the low-speed vertical scan and a second for the high-speed horizontal scan, while the Microvision design combines both functions into a single mirror. Red, green and blue lasers are used in both designs to produce a full-color image. These lasers must be modulated at the pixel rate to generate the image. This is not much of a problem for the blue or red lasers, but the commercial availability and cost of the green lasers has dogged Microvision’s efforts to commercialize their technology. While the unit at CEATEC is a demonstration unit, Funai says their technology may be commercialized as early as 2010. If they decide to go ahead and produce a product, they will have Microvision to thank for blazing a path to a high-speed green laser.
This design, with integrated feedback to control the host, looks to me like the first step along the line to a fully integrated picoprojector/computer, as proposed earlier here. I hope Funai expands this technology and commercializes it. For an expanded version of this article, see the upcoming issue of Mobile Display Report.