Handheld Projectors Said Within Reach

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CAMBRIDGE, England, Nov. 29, 2006 -- Pocket-sized projectors capable of screening movies from a laptop or mobile phone could be on the market within three years as the result of a deal between the University of Cambridge (UC) and Japanese electronic components manufacturer Alps Electric Co. Ltd.

Alps Electric, which has a UK office in Milton Keyes and a US office in Campbell, Calif., has been granted an exclusive license to the university’s core patent for a holographic video projector technology developed by a research team in its engineering department. The company intends to manufacture miniature projectors based on the university’s patented technology that it said "will be highly energy efficient, will always be in focus and will be extremely robust." These qualities would make them suitable for building into laptops, mobile phones and other devices, the university said.

The technology works by converting the image to be projected into a phase-only holographic pattern. This pattern is displayed inside the projector on a small, fast, high-definition liquid crystal-over-silicon (LCOS) panel, then a laser is trained onto the panel. The light bouncing off each of the millions of points of the pattern interferes to reconstruct the original picture on a conventional white screen, the office wall or any convenient surface.

The lasers are very efficient, and the holographic technique ensures that virtually all of their light can be used to reconstruct the projected image.

Alps Electric is working in close collaboration with the university's department of engineering to refine the technology, as a strategic partner in the department's Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE). The team has built a prototype that was demonstrated at the Alps Show 2006 electronics exhibition, held in May in Tokyo. The industrial side of the project is led by Jamieson Christmas, Alps Electric's chief engineer in the UK and inventor of a patented algorithm that has produced what is believed to be the world’s highest-quality reconstructed image using phase-only projection.

UC photonics professor William Crossland, often regarded as a founding father of LCOS technology, is chairs CAPE's steering committee and is a lead inventor of the core patent and principal investigator for the research project with Alps Electric.

“This may be the first mass-market application of real-time holography,” Crossland said. “I have been working on this idea with my colleagues for over 10 years, looking forward to the day when computer processing power, lasers and liquid crystal technology would become sufficiently advances to put our ideas into practice.”

Alps Electric’s exclusive licence has been agreed to by Cambridge Enterprise, which helps University of Cambridge inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs commercially develop their ideas and concepts.

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Published: November 2006
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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