Microvison Projects a Touch Screen Onto Anything
It's a shirt, it's a screen. Any surface that the PicoP projects onto it can also recognize touch input.
Long before anyone had heard the word "pico projector" — and undoubtedly, many still haven't — the engineers at Microvision were slaving away on their Rube Goldberg-esque invention. Not just a tiny projector, it is a tiny laser projector - meaning it can produce incredibly rich colors without the need to focus. A laser is always focused.
The technology also allows Microvision to add touch-screen capabilities without much trouble because of the unique way it makes images. Other pico projectors, such as the Optoma PK301, light up the entire screen all at once, as an LCD or Plasma TV does. The three (red, green and blue) lasers in Microvision's PicoP projector scan the screen absurdly rapidly, drawing one pixel, then the next, then the next — like the three electron "guns" that scan the screen in a color picture tube.
The process is timed precisely. If something strays in front of the lasers and blocks the beam, the electronics driving the projector know exactly where and when that happened, and they can register that info as an input on the screen.
In developing its mind-blowing technology, Microvision has taken the hard route into mini projectors. While it was wrestling the huge challenges of laser projection, companies including 3M and Texas Instruments came to market by the comparatively easier route of miniaturizing the innards from standard projectors. While projectors have been popping up in phones and cameras for years, Microvision has just recently been getting its technology into mainstream products.
But with the capability for bonus features such as touch-screen interfaces, as well as 3D, maybe the hard route to more sophisticated tech will finally pay off.