Phones with Projectors: the Competition Begins

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They may not have THX sound, but cell phones are bringing you closer to the movies by including miniature DLP projectors. Three different companies: Texas Instruments (allied with Samsung), Microvision, and 3M have all created these tiny devices. The collaboration between Samsung and TI led to the unveiling of one of the coolest phones ever seen at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This “pico projector” may not have a lot of power, but it can play vids on a wall, on your shirt, or on your hand.

The pico projector phone from Samsung makes it easy to share.
The pico projector phone from Samsung makes it easy to share.

Not satisfied with just creating a cell phone with a projector, Samsung released the MBP-200, an independent device that just has the pico-projector module. This allows anyone with a micro-SD card to project images, video, or text anywhere they want. Right now it’s only available in Korea, but you can bet tech-geeks on this side of the Pacific are clamoring for a chance to get their hands on it.

Want some more footage? Check out videos of the MBP-200’s competition. 3M has launched the MPro110, a projector with remarkably similar specs to the MBP, though with full VGA. Microvision hopes to trump everyone with their Integrated Photonics Module. The IPM supports the highest resolution of the three. Power consumption is a big issue, so all three companies are being tight-lipped about it (see note in comments). The Microvision mobile projector device, also called a “pico projector” may not ship until later this year, as a component laser is slow to go into mass production. While you’re waiting, you have to see the so-bad-it’s-good commercial for the device below.

Whenever I see a technology battle between companies I get really hopeful. Not only are 3M, TI, and Microvision going to push each other to make projectors smaller, more powerful, more efficient and with higher resolution, they should keep the prices low. It will be interesting to see which phone company (if any) picks up the 3M or Microvision module. Already Microvision is soliciting wide spread 3rd party development by offering their pico projector module in an evaluation kit for a (relatively) cheap $5k. Those of you with the hardware inclination may want to jump on and see what you can do with it.

We’ve talked about large scale projectors as art installations, and cameras with projectors, now that hand held devices and phones are included 2009 is officially the year of the projector. That should provide a lot of new ways to share information and creativity on the fly. I’m thrilled that TI/Samsung will start bringing movies to cell phones. Now, if I can only get people to stop bringing their cell phones to movies…

*photo credit: Noel McKeegan