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Insect-inspired smartphone projector focuses images onto uneven surfaces


May 11, 2012

The Fraunhofer smartphone projector actually consists of an array of 200 microprojectors

The Fraunhofer smartphone projector actually consists of an array of 200 microprojectors

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If you were using a smartphone projector to shine an image onto an uneven surface, or onto a flat surface but at a diagonal angle, parts of the image would end up out of focus ... unless, that is, your phone featured a new prototype LED projector developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering. Inspired by the compound eyes of insects, the device can reportedly display crisp, bright, distortion-free visuals onto irregular surfaces, and at non-perpendicular angles. Additionally, users can manipulate that display by reaching in and touching the projection surface.

The secret to the system is that it incorporates not just one projector, but an array of 200 microprojectors. Each one of those projects the same complete image, their shots all superimposed on top of one another on the wall – or whatever surface is being used. However, each microprojector can independently adjust the focus of its image, based on how far it is from the surface. If integrated into a smartphone, the phone’s position sensor and camera could be used to provide the necessary data.

What it all boils down to is that even if the picture were being projected onto a curved surface, every part of that surface would be reflecting an image that was custom-focused to its own unique distance from the array.

Besides being made up of 200 visible pictures, however, the image is also overlaid with a grid of infrared lines, invisible to the human eye. If the user sticks their fingers onto the projected image and starts doing the same sorts of things they would do on a touchscreen display, a sensor registers when and where those lines are broken, and the system reacts accordingly. The Fraunhofer researchers suggest that this could lead to smartphones that could be controlled from a large projected image of their screen, instead of from the cramped screen itself.

The entire LED projector system measure 2 x 2 centimeters (0.79 x 0.79 inches), and is reportedly well-suited to large-scale production. It may be a few years before it makes its way into commercially-available phones, however, as it requires quite a high pixel density in order to work properly.

Source: Fraunhofer

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Wow, that's a lot more complex than just a simple laser projector like the Microvision SHOWWX http://www.gizmag.com/microvisions-second-generation-showwx-laser-pico-projector/17027/


Please only ask me to Program a VCR.

Flipider Comm

I have to add a cloud to the phone LED projector silver lining, mini ones cannot project an image over 1000 ansi lumens(most are nearer 100).

The best commercial 'LED' projector's by power are those made by Casio (2700 ansi lumens), if its Laser assisted chips were placed in a phone then we are cooking, however this is then a laser Hybrid projectior not LED, but this is the device needed. It would also need to be powered by the mains at all times, my smartphone battery supplies 4.5Wh, at full blast the XJ-A140 from Casio draws 270Wh.

A minimum 1800 - 2000 ansi lumen's is needed to see a projected image in a bright room; there is no need to guess how bad the image gets at 100 ansi lumens but you are probably better off passing around the phone while watching the screen.

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