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Microvision protoypes iPhone-sized projector

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Macworld Expo Microvision, the Redmond-based creator of mobile display systems, chose Macworld Expo to unveil a prototype of its latest - and smallest - laser-based projector.

How small is small? In this case, quite small, indeed.

This 25 per cent slimmer version of Microvision’s earlier Show prototype, now code named Show WX (for, argh, "wide experience"), is 11.8cm by 6cm by 1.4cm and weighs about 4.5 ounces. That 25 per cent reduction may not sound like much, but it promotes the device from being merely "really, really small" to "hey, that fits in my pocket."

Microvision Show WX

Actually, that's a rather small hand

It's smartphone sized. An iPhone 3G, for comparison, is 11.6cm by 6.21cm by 1.23cm and weighs 4.7 ounces, and a BlackBerry Bold is 11.4cm by 6.6cm by 1.5cm and weighs 4.8 ounces. In the opinion of Ian Brown, Microvision's VP Sales & Marketing: "Other projectors in the past may have called themselves pocket projectors, but they're still bricks." He may be biased, but he's right. If and when the Show MX graduates from prototype to product, it may be the world's first truly "pocketable" projector.

The Show WX uses Microvision's laser-based PicoP Display Engine to project a 16:9 WVGA (848 by 480) image on any surface. As Brown describes it, the PicoP is "a little engine about the size of my thumb that has three lasers: red, green, and blue. They're combined optically to create a single point of white light, and that point is then beamed onto a MEMS mirror, which is articulated both vertically and horizontally, and by the means of electromagnetic fields we can fluctuate [the beam's intensity]."

The mirror is one millimeter in size. That might sound small, but it's huge in comparison to digital micromirror device (DMD) chips used in digital light processing (DLP) systems such as TV and projectors. DMDs can have over two million mirrors on a single chip. The difference between a DMD chip and Microvision's PicoP is that in a DLP system, each mirror corresponds to a single display pixel. In the Show WX, on the other hand, a single mirror handles the aiming of the laser beam as it scans horizontally and vertically to project the rows and columns of the video image.

In addition to the PicoP projection engine, the Show WX includes support circuitry and a lithium ion battery which can power the device for about two hours, which Brown described as "movie-capable."

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