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LED Projectors - Micro sized! look out, they are coming, and in a big way

I'm way late on this blog, it's one inspired back at Infocomm, in mid-June, and I thought for sure, I would get it done before CEDIA. No such luck so here goes. What is an LED projector? That's obviously the first question. LED (light emitting diodes), is not a technology that will replace, DLP, 3LCD, nor LCoS.

The Toshiba LED projector is less than 4 inches long and 2/3 inch high

Rather it is a lighting system for any and all of those projector types. So far, there are apparently several being shown, all called Pico LED projectors, but most using a DLP chip (although one with LCoS), with light provided by LED. The thing is, they are tiny! Shown at the right is Toshiba's entry, and it isn't even one of the smaller ones. Now it's true that a couple of large type projectors have been demoed (pre-production) models using LED light instead of the traditonal lamps (Digital Projection was one company that showed one), but that's something that's probably coming, with a few models in a year or so. Since that is evolutionary (though it should have some advantages), I'm not going to get into that here. Let's talk about the newest tiniest projectors. I saw them at Infocomm 2 months ago. Optoma and 3M I physically saw and there are probably one or two other with prototypes. Now, you probably are thinking units like the Mitsubishi PK20 the new Dell M109S LED projector, and so on. That type are palm sized, normally weigh in around 0.5 pounds or a little more, but only produce 30 - 60 lumens (when measured - at least one company's LED projector tested a while back at less than 50 lumens, but claimed almost 150 lumens). These units have had a hard time. Certainly, they're cool, but when you can buy a DLP projector for less than twice the price, that is 20 times brighter, and only about 4 times the bulk, and still under 2 pounds, not much demand, for a very dim smaller model. it just doesn't work that great as a business presentation projector. I'm talking about REALLY small projectors.

Optoma LED projector is the worlds first commercial thumb-sized projector

The industry wants to recycle the term Pico projector, for these tiny models, but I doubt that will catch on. Perhaps "Thumb projectors", since they are about that size or a little larger. I'm speaking about a projector type, that in a year, certainly two years, you are likely to find built into devices like an iPhone, Blackberry, or PDA, as well as possibly portable game machines!!! Optoma will start selling theirs this December and 3M should be as well, or very early next year. Pricing should be $400 or less. Yes, projectors that weigh only an ounce or so. True, they are really dim - 8-15 lumens right now, but sufficient to produce a reasonable looking image in a dark room, as large as 40 inches diagonal, they claim, but let's say they can do 8-10 inches diagonal with some wash out in a moderately lit room, and probably do a decent job at 20 inches diagonal in a fully darkened room. Now, for something that falls in size and weight, about half way between a chapstick, and a pack of cigarettes, that's impressive. Imagine watching a U-tube video, as a 15 inch image instead of a 4 inch one on an iPhone or MP3 player with large display. Even better, watch a downloaded movie or TV show...

Look for LED projectors inside phones, pdas, digital cameras and even pens

Expect LED projector to be used in all kinds of devices, including cell phones, digital cameras, game machines, portable media players, and even laptops!!! And that's just the integrated side of the tiny LED projector market. Stand alone projectors, such as two I saw demonstrated there, were roughly the size of a Bic lighter (but thinner and a touch wider), or a large USB thumb drive (bigger than most of those). We are talking small. Think something no thicker than an iPhone, about 1/2 the width, and maybe 2/3 as long (that means an iphone is about as bulky as 3 or 4 of these combined.

LED projector engines are tiny. Looks like they'll fit inside just about anything!

Here's a photo of the 3M led projector engine, that can be integrated into various devices: Now you understand, that a companion LED projector has a lot more to it (power supply, etc, in terms of space, than just putting the basics inside another device that already has the case, the buttons, the power supply, etc. I saw this gear at the Projection Summit, where a lot of industry forecasting goes on. Two major research and tracking companies provided forecasting. One had a huge range - something like 4 to 40 million units in 2010, while another was forecasting about 5.5 million units. The bottom line is HUGE numbers of the smallest projector types, should be everywhere in the next two years. The highest projections I saw, had close to 50,000,000 of these being sold by 2012, I do believe. Now that's a lot of projectors. It's a new world a'coming. And they will get brighter. Wait until they combine LED projectors and lasers for dynamic feedback, such as projecting a full sized keyboard and recognizing the keys as you "touch" them. That may well work for full speed typing on an iPhone or other small device. Now that really makes you wonder if we'll still need laptops in a few more years. -art

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