Toshiba Exhibits Ultrasmall Projector as Small as iPod

Sep 22, 2008
Tadashi Nezu, Nikkei Electronics
The prototype of an ultra compact projector
The prototype of an ultra compact projector
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Projecting images
Projecting images
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Mockups on display. The prototype commercial version of the iPod-sized projector (right) and a UBS memory-sized projector (left).
Mockups on display. The prototype commercial version of the iPod-sized projector (right) and a UBS memory-sized projector (left).
[ If it clicks, the expanded picture will open ]

Toshiba Corp prototyped a projector as small as the iPod and exhibited it at the company's new products exhibition in Japan (See related article 1, 2).

The projector was on display at IFA 2008, a consumer electronics trade show that took place in Germany from Aug 29 to Sept 3, 2008. According to a demonstrator from the company, it is "the first time that Toshiba has exhibited the prototype in Japan."

It is extremely unusual for a leading Japanese manufacturer to exhibit an ultra compact projector of this kind. Recently, development of ultra compact projectors that are small enough to be fit in a breast pocket and can be driven by a battery is intensifying and drawing people's attention.

However, most of the prototypes were made by manufacturers outside Japan or venture companies. This unexpected exhibition caught the eyes of many visitors who came to check out Toshiba's new LCD TVs and DVD recorders.

The prototype has a luminance of about 7lm. In dark places, it is capable of projecting and displaying images of about 50 inches. It is equipped with the digital light processing (DLP) Pico chip set manufactured by Texas Instruments Inc (TI).

The DLP Pico chip set, which was designed exclusively for mobile devices, is composed of small versions of TI's MEMS device called "digital mirror device" (DMD) and its drive LSI, etc. The projector has 480 x 320 HVGA resolution. It is powered by a built-in battery, and the battery run time is less than one hour, Toshiba said.

The company didn't specify the dimensions of the projector. The incorporated optical module reportedly takes up almost half the size of the projector. It uses red, green and blue LEDs for the light source.

Toshiba aims to commercialize the projector in the first to the second quarter of 2009. The company hopes to improve the luminance to 10lm, extend the battery run time to two hours and increase the projection size to 60 inches before the commercialization. According to the company, the target weight of the product is around 100g.

The power consumption and the price are likely to be on par with those of other ultra compact projectors of the same kind, although the company avoided stating the specific figures. Therefore, the power consumption is expected to be 2-4W, and the price is likely to be US$300-400. The company also exhibited a mockup of a commercialized product.

According to Toshiba, those target specifications may be changed before the release. The company has to overcome technical problems such as the reduction of heat generated by the projector and the reduction of the main unit weight in order to put the product on the market. In addition, the company is faced with the problem that it is still uncertain about the main use of the projector, the demonstrator said.

Toshiba also exhibited a mockup of another projector as small as a USB memory at the site. It is expected to be used as a device externally connected to a mobile phone.

"We designed it as an external component because we are not sure whether a system embedded in a mobile device would truly be the best solution for personal use," the demonstrator said.

At the moment, the company is not planning to commercialize the USB memory-sized projector.