Laser LEDs helping pico projectors to enter mainstream
Though not very successful, Pico projectors are still hoping for a big comeback in smart phones as well as other portable computing systems. If Pico projector was accepted way of display in mobiles, the laptop should have been just a CPU integrated keyboard with built-in projector and a touch pad. Market has seen smart phones, camcorders with pico projectors, but they are not so successful, at that cost, and due to not so impressive performance of pico projectors and also due to advancement in LCD panels both in technology as well as cost. One of the culprit in the failure of Pico projector was LEDs which were used as light source. They were not reliable, resulting in higher failure rate. The expensive and not so high picture quality producing LED-based pico-projectors could not compete with constantly falling in cost, as well as resolution improving LCD panels. But the Pico projectors are getting renewed now due to the use of lasers instead of LEDs as light source. The MEMS based micro-mirror chips are also now available in small sizes and support Full-HD and feature interfaces such as HDMI.
Full HD projectors are now designed for applications such as digital signage, mobile/portable projectors, screenless TVs, control panels, interactive displays, and wearables such as head-mounted displays (HMD).
Recently Lenovo has launched a smart phone with laser Pico projector which can project a virtual keyboard, the smart phone reads the typing by using finger positions, similarly a virtual touchscreen can be projected for touch interface. The laser Pico projector uses separate red, green blue lasers. The Green laser diode was perfected only very recently by companies such as Sony and Sumitomo. By leveraging the laser LEDs, a company called bTendo has developed one of the smallest pico-projector in the market measuring just 5 mm thin, so that it can get integrated into modern day smart phones . STMicroelectronics has acquired the IP related to Pico projection from bTendo.
Many have expected the Google glass and such similar products has high potential market for the pico/nano projectors. But still they have not taken off that big compared to smart phones and wrist-wearables.
Technavio forecasted the global pico projectors market to grow at a CAGR of 32.4% over the period 2014-2019.
The vendors in this market includes, STMicrolectronics, Texas Instruments, Intersil, 3M, Microvision, Optoma Technology, Syndiant, AAXA Technologies, ACER, AIPTEK International, ASK Proxima, BenQ, Canon, Light Blue Optics, Luminus Device, Greenlight Optics, Lempotix, Samsung Electronics, Maradin, Micron Technology, Mezmeriz, OPUS Microsystems, Toshiba, and WOWEE Group.