Pico projectors: The Big Screen of the automotive domain

Pico projectors are getting deployed as image projector in consumer electronics such as mini beamer, automotive, health-care, and business applications due to their scalability and reliability.

Pico Projector market has been growing globally and exhibiting a high growth potential, however, it is prone to certain challenges which restricts a wide scale adoption. Pico projectors are getting deployed as image projector in consumer electronics such as mini beamer, automotive, health-care, and business applications due to their scalability and reliability. The three major types of technologies enabling Pico projectors are digital light processing, liquid crystal display, and laser beam steering.

Achieving the Desired Resolution:

The most important challenge that the Pico projectors encounter is the resolution of images on different surfaces. With the advancement in the display device of televisions, laptops, and mobile phones, there is a need for resolution of 720 progressive scans and brightness of 20?30 lumens in Pico projectors. This makes it more difficult for developers/manufacturers to provide a high quality image on certain surfaces, such as curved display device. The demand is not only for high quality images but also for high quality projection of movies, video games, and touchscreen menus. It is vital for the Pico projector companies to provide high resolution image projection and brightness to meet the current market demand.

Reducing the Consumption of Power:

One of the major power consuming components in electronic devices is the display unit. On an average, the screen consumes ten times more power than the digital signal processor. Thus, reducing power consumption is an important challenge while developing Pico projectors for image projection.

Miniaturization Issues:

In the past decade, the Pico projectors market has been focused on innovations and structural changes. Electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets are also reducing in size, becoming more sleek and light-weight. Integrating Pico projectors or image projectors in mobile phones and tablets will further increase the complexity of their models. Reducing the size of the projection technologies and optical engines remains a challenge for all Pico projector companies.

To address the above-mentioned challenges, there is a need to develop laser scanning micro-projection technology that can provide high functionality for a range of applications spanning Pico projectors, wearable display, and automotive heads-up displays. The technology is optimized to address the critical concerns such as, sleek form factor, and light weight.

Although high volume of people watch online videos and news on their smartphones, however, a very few actually like the experience. Automotive end users started comparing their pocket devices with their in-car infotainment system. The expectation is to get a bigger in-car infotainment system. Furthermore, in the automotive industry, OEM’s are also focusing on developing the infotainment system with much bigger display, companies in this arena are competing with respect to the display size and options. There is a demand for bigger screens and sleek models so that users can enjoy their experience of operating the infotainment system. Smartphone and infotainment companies are continuously developing new models which are complemented with advancements in display technologies. Advancements like better resolution and brightness are also leading to several problems such as high power consumption, while increasing the total cost of ownership.

Companies such as ST Microelectronics, Microvision, Syndiant and others are developing a laser projection technology with a broad business strategy to trigger mass market adoption. Intel has acquired Lemoptix SA for its laser projection technology. This technology will allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop miniaturized projectors that can be integrated in mobile devices to provide large screen displays. The advantages of using laser projection technology for the illumination of micro displays are compelling in comparison to other technologies. The displays enabled by laser projection technology improve power efficiency, image brightness, and image contrast, made possible a wider gamut of colors, reduced size of both the illumination source and the optical system, and improved the depth of field for focus-free usage. The key ingredients to develop laser projection technology are Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) scanning mirror, optical engine, application-specific integrated circuit, and system enhancement device for output optimization.

This laser scanning micro-projection technology will play a key role in aiding OEMs to drive business growth, and provide excellent quality videos to consumers on any type of screen.

The high intensity of laser sources allows a rich gamut of colors and high quality images. The projector can provide a resolution of 720 progressive scans and efficiency of 30 lumens for a watt. The image can be created pixel by pixel after the beam is reflected from the movable mirror and projected on the screen. To ensure precise control of mirror at different angles, actuation is done with the help of magnetic force. The collimated laser beam ensures that the image is also focused on different surfaces placed at different distances. Thus, the system has an added advantage because it does not require any additional optical system to achieve autofocus function. This function implies an additional pressure on the battery, which further impacts the operating time of the device.

The system uses all of its light to create the image because the mirror has a larger area than the laser beam spot. The total projector thickness depends mostly on mirror dimension and can be as low as approximately one millimeter; the use of a single laser beam offers a significant advantage. This approach also allows for massive reduction in size and weight without compromising the image quality. This feature is of high importance when considering the projector for use in smartphones, where small a key requirement.

The current system in the market should be scaled to develop next generation laser-projection-powered augmented reality and 3D scanning solutions for automotive markets. This will further reduce the added cost for bigger displays and head up displays in automotive, providing consumer’s relief with respect to optimized cost and less complexity inside the vehicle. Pico projector can be the future for automotive domain, if OEMs focuses on innovation rather than the integration of bigger displays from third party suppliers.

Laser scanning micro-projection technology will be employed in a wide range of applications such as in mobile devices, tablets, wearable displays, 3D sensing, smart headlamps, LIDAR/3D measurement and automotive heads-up display. The fastest growing application is in the consumer electronics industry because of the need for sleek phones and bigger screens. The Pico projectors market will continue to grow at an expanding rate. It is compatible with different types of heads-up displays (HUDs): reflective, re-emissive and combiner.

The Pico projection technology will penetrate into wearable and automotive industries to provide next generation augmented reality displays and human/machine interactivity.

The laser scanning micro projection technology also has the potential to be leveraged in wearable displays for applications such as glasses and helmets that will carry small transparent displays enabling next generation augmented reality applications. It will also be beneficial for the bike riders if integrated into the helmet.

The Laser scanning micro-projection technology is expected to achieve mass market adoption as it will enable applications such as Pico projectors, providing large display on small devices with high resolution and efficiency, wearable displays based on augmented reality, informative heads-up display for driver assistance as well as security and comfort, and 3D sensing for natural user interfaces.

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