updated 08:41 pm EDT, Wed May 23, 2012
Pico projector technology enables physical object control
Researchers at the German institution Technische Universitat Darmstadt have published a paper demonstrating a technology that could eventually bring complex, physical object-based control to pico projectors. Were the technology, dubbed LightBeam, to be integrated with smartphones, it could engender a much wider array of interactions and methods of navigating data.
Pico projectors are tiny lightsource devices that can connect to mobile devices or storage cards and display their output on nearby walls at modest sizes and resolutions, enabling sharing of a presentation, video or images on a nearby surface at larger sizes (up to 50 inches or so) than would be practical to have handy as a screen. Pico projectors are very dim by full-size projector standards but can be suitable for small groups, and generally run on USB or battery power, increasing the portability and convenience.
LightBeam works by monitoring the surface onto which an image is projected. As seen in the video below, when the surface is moved, the LightBeam system can adjust its projection to keep the image displaying on the surface. The system can also recognize three-dimensional objects, allowing for the rotation and panning of physical objects as a means of controlling slideshows and web browsers.
The researchers note that the technology falls short of being fully applicable for modern uses, but the LightBeam system does at least represent a novel application of pico projector technology and the potential for a wider range of interactions with data, should the technology be implemented in a consumer device some time in the future. Previously, pico projectors have been combined with holographic laser projectors to create virtual touchscreen displays.