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Laser projectors hit Consumer Electronics Show

06 Jan 2011

MicroVision touts its mini-tablet prototype with an embedded laser projector, while start-up Soraa focuses on the benefits of its direct green emitters.

As the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas gets into full swing, photonics technologies are again providing some of the key talking points.

Aside from 3-D televisions, gesture-based games and computing and the latest advances in organic LED screens, laser-based projector systems are also attracting attention.

A new development this year involves mini-tablet devices - one of the CES event’s leading topics – with projector developer MicroVision showing off a prototype design that incorporates an RGB laser projector.

According to MicroVision, the prototype can turn the screen of a tablet PC into a vivid 100-inch display that is always in focus and without the color break-up that plagues other projector approaches when the viewing angle is altered.

MicroVision CEO Alexander Tokman said of the prototype: “More functionality has always been the trend in consumer electronics until tablets came along. This mobile multimedia device is just one example of how we plan to help the industry achieve big-screen viewing experiences while still offering pocket-sized portability.”

Although MicroVision’s prototype does not represent a consumer product in its own right, the company is offering it as a technical foundation for electronics manufacturing and design partners to incorporate the technology into their next-generation devices.

Speckle solution
One of the key optical problems with laser projectors has been the speckle produced by green lasers based on frequency-doubled infrared emitters – the conventional approach up until now. But another company at CES this week – the UCSB start-up Soraa – believes that its direct green emitters, which are based on non-polar and semi-polar forms of InGaN semiconductor materials, can solve this problem.

The company, originally set up in 2008 by optoelectronics pioneers Shuji Nakamura, Steven Denbaars and James Speck and funded by big-hitting venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, is to show off its green (520-525 nm) and blue (450 nm) laser diodes in its private suite at the Las Vegas event.

The company’s green sources now deliver an output power of more than 75 mW continuous-wave, and operate in a single spatial and multi-spectral mode. Soraa states that the devices, which can be modulated at the high speeds required for high-resolution displays, suit liquid-crystal on silicon (LCOS), scanning MEMS and other diffractive approaches to pico projection.

Just last month, MicroVision agreed a deal with the Japanese electronics company Pioneer to develop, manufacture and distribute display engines and display engine subsystems for consumer and in-vehicle head-up displays (HUDs) using the MicroVision “PicoP” laser display technology.

"We believe that by combining our respective market and product development capabilities, and leveraging best practices in manufacturing, MicroVision and Pioneer can accelerate introducing next-generation laser display products while reducing the total cost for both companies in getting there," said Alexander Tokman at the time.

Both Pioneer and MicroVision have been recognized by the CEATEC consumer electronics show for their laser projector displays in 2010. Pioneer was recognized in the automotive category for its demonstration of a heads-up display using laser scanning technology provided by MicroVision, and MicroVision was itself recognized in the components category for its “SHOWWX” laser pico projector, which is based on the PicoP display engine.

Laser display video from Pioneer:

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