You probably first came across projectors while you were at school, then college and maybe university. If you remember they were the clunky things with loads of cables that probably sat anchored to the ceiling in your classroom or lecture theatre.
I remember my time as a lecturer also having to spend 15-20 minutes setting up my projector before my lesson, where projector bulbs were mega expensive also.
Move to the 21st century and things have changed somewhat. While larger projectors obviously have better quality outputs, there are pico projectors or pocket projectors that can sometimes match or even exceed full-size projector quality.
So what are pico projectors? They’re simply miniature projectors, either embedded with another handheld device or just by themselves. Also called pocket projectors, mobile projectors or handheld projectors, these devices were developed as a result of the miniaturization of all devices. Here’s all you need to know about pico projectors!
The History of the Pico Projector
Pico projectors have not had that much of a history. They were originally introduced as a concept in late 2003 and then only went into full production in the obvious challenge was how to make the old style projector into a smaller compact unit but still deliver the same outputs. This along with having to deal with power output and heat dissipation.
They were originally used in the education and business sectors but have soon spread into the entertainment arena where the idea of being able to project screen sizes up to 150 inches from a tiny device that can fit into your pocket is definitely cool, to say the least.
They are now estimated to be selling in the millions all over the world and have biggies like Asus, Acer, 3M and more making products as well. Texas Instruments started producing chips for better pico projection systems in 2011, miniaturizing their world famous DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology, which is also used in commercial movie projectors. Since it pushes for power efficiency, these chipsets have also paved the way for pico projectors in mobile phones, cameras, PDAs and more.
How They Work
In layman’s language, the pico projectors are simply small projectors in a smaller package. However, the smaller size does it make it much more difficult to create efficient output.
Anyone who has used a full-size projector knows the amount of heat dissipated, and that’s something that obviously will not do at sites like these. So there are three technologies which power pico pocket projectors. One of which we’ve already mentioned above and many are aware of if you have shopped for a mini projector is DLP by Texas Instruments.
DLP (Digital Light Processing)
This was created by Texas Instruments, DLP is a technology that basically involves using tiny mirrors on a chip that directs light, from a white light source. Each tiny mirror controls a pixel on the target picture, and depending on how long it’s on, the target pixel gets brighter or dimmer, since it has only on and off states. Between the light source and the mirrors, is a color wheel, that splits light into the three primary colors (red, green and blue), which finally translates into color on the screen. Again, each mirror controls both the brightness and color of the pixel.
LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon)
LCoS projectors basically control how much light each pixel gets by a small LCD. There are two ways to do this, the first being Color Filter (CF-LCoS), which uses 3 subpixels with the primary colors to create finished images, and Field Sequential Color (FSC-LCoS), which uses a dynamic color filter and faster LCD which refreshes the colors rapidly. The light source is again, white light based, and can be either LED or diffused laser.
Laser Beam Steering (LBS):
Finally, we have Laser Beam Steering, developed by Microvision. As the name suggests, it uses laser beams to create the image, one pixel at a time. There are 3 primary colored lasers that are combined using optics and guided using mirrors to create the finished image. To get rid of the scanline effect, however, the image should be scanned at over 60Hz. It’s used only by Microvision pico projectors though and is rather expensive compared to its counterparts. It is much better in terms of size, power consumption and focuses constraints though.
What Types of Pico/Pocket Projectors Are There?
Pico projectors are not limited to just being miniature projectors, they’re also sometimes embedded in other devices, or devices on their own, that work in tandem to create something of a portable media device. Based on size, power and devices required, there are a few types of pico projectors:
Standalone: Simple pico projectors that work by themselves and required input to display images. They are mostly self-powered by batteries.
Embedded: These are the type of pico projectors that are embedded with other mobile devices and derive their power and input from them. Common devices include mobile phones and cameras.
Media-player: Pico projectors that have onboard storage and minimal processing power, as well as external storage support that can be used as media devices for playback independently.
USB Projector: These are the type of pico projectors that use USB for both power and input. They’re the smallest since there’s no battery, but they can’t be used just by themselves.
How Do You Use Them?
Projectors aren’t really used too much other than in business or education environments, but there is a growing list of other applications outside that realm as well that are increasing in popularity.
As portable media devices to display films or games
As devices attached to other electronic devices to enhance their functionality
As part of gesture control systems, in combination with webcams/laser pointers
As home entertainment devices
As gaming devices
So is this the end of the large clunky projector? Maybe, we are obsessed with making technology larger these days – bigger iPhones etc. However, in the commercial world and home media industry it may the case of small is beautiful.