Japanese & Polish Researchers: "Mini-Projectors Need Holograms!" But wait, do we need mini-projectors?

Lasers & Holograms for Tiny Projectors - AkihabaraNews.com

Smartphone projectors? Laptop projectors? Pen projectors? Tablet projectors? Well, maybe there’s a market (maybe), but perfecting a practical mini-projector has been perennially problematic. Japanese and Polish researchers could have an answer: ditch the lenses and use holographic zoom.

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First the Question: Should we Really be Working on This?
See, conceptually, it seems pretty cool; imagine a time in the future when both professionals and civilians could whip out their smartphone at a moment’s notice and project some businessy charts, or show grandma the photos from last week’s road trip, or whatever - just a few touchscreen taps, and pow - bright and shiny on any surface.

But here’s the thing, that future came and went about 18 months ago. Remember Samsung’s Galaxy Beam?Samsung Galaxy Beam - AkihabaraNews.com
Well, you’ll be forgiven. Few do.

The somewhat chunky, otherwise standard Android smartphone arrived right around the summation of the pico- & micro-projector hype cycle. Samsung gets props for giving it a go, but their projector phone, along with most mini-projector solutions, flamed out in a bad-word-of-mouth and buyer’s remorse-fueled inferno. That was just about... ohhhh, 18 months ago.

So, either mini-projector tech just isn’t good enough yet, or, as it’s currently conceived, there isn’t anything really compelling to like, you know, do with it. It could be that, outside of a few niche markets, along with the Segway, the Clapper, piezoelectric running shoes, and even Google Glass (when the fanboy drool finally dries), the mini-projector is destined for the island of lost technological toys. All very cool, all rather useless.

But Wait, Maybe it’s Implementation - We need Holograms Instead of Lenses!
A mild irony, the big barrier to wider (potential) implementation of mini-projection systems is size - and lensing systems get a lot of the blame (and brightness, too, but that’s a whole different thread of complaint). See, necessitating an exact distance from projector to projection surface would make the device brickishly unwieldly. It’d be like an open-air cathode ray tube (look it up, if you must).

(Actually, several zoom-incapable mini-projectors did make it to the market. For a while. A short while. Try eBay.)

A zoom function, coupled with some kind of focussing, is essential, and if lenses can be entirely amputated from the equation without losing the zooming capability, then you get smaller, cheaper, better mini-projectors.

To that end, a Japanese-led team of researchers from Chiba University, in collaboration with a Polish team from the Warsaw University of Technology, have decided that holograms are the answer. And lasers. No bulbs. No lenses. Just math for making holograms focus at variable distances. And lasers. Lasers are a big part of this. Lensless zooming and lasers and stuff have been implemented in mini-projectors before, but this development, detailed in the paper linked below, presents a considerable simplification.

So, good then. Science. Nice.
Now normally at this point in the article, it would be expected for an author to touch on the particulars of the actual science at work here, maybe toss out some big college sciencey words. But, in all likelihood, most readers aren’t really going to care, and honestly, neither do we (those who do, hit the source and original paper below).

Because We Come Back to the Question
The sciencey stuff is cool, but we’re not here to regurgitate the paper. We’re much more concerned with the user experience and product side of mini-projection systems. S
maller, cheaper, and better overall sounds great, and we'll find something cool to do with those smaller, cheaper, and better mini-projectors, right?

It does have a certain appeal... until you start thinking about what appears on your personal smartphone screen - and how much of that you'd be okay with broadcasting. It could get icky. Maybe you toss up a movie, a YouTube clip, some photos, and maybe - halfway through - an embarrassing notification or reminder pops up, or a creepy photo from a friend in Japan. Pops up on the wall. In front of mom. Ooops.

And okay, maybe thinking 'Smartphone Projector' is too narrow. But we're still not sure what exactly to do with this tech.

We'd love your ideas - hit us up in the comments below.
We'll print them out and drive to Chiba. 
Have a talk with Professor Shimobaba.

Really, because it's not too far. 
We're full service like that.

• • •

VIA: Kurzweil AI via Lensless zoomable holographic projection using scaled Fresnel diffraction, Optics Express
Images: Kurzweil AI; Samsung; AkihabaraNews.com

• • • 

Addendum I:
Open access, open published scholarly paper linked up there. Nice, nice. And you, you damn secretive, walled garden, monolithic, elitist, inaccessible academic journal publishing cartels, take heed! Technology is coming to get you and liberating information along the way.

Addendum II:
A team of Japanese and Polish researchers...” is not a common phrase, that is to say, not an overabundance of connection between the two nations, so it’s nice to see this sort of cooperation in action. Way to go with the international relations, science guys.


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