Coming to a pocket near you soon

Do you ever think that miniaturization might have gone far enough? Do you hanker for a phone with great big buttons, or the reassuring heft of a media storage device not prone to disappearing down the back of the sofa?


Do you ever think that miniaturization might have gone far enough? Do you hanker for a phone with great big buttons, a PDA with a keyboard you can actually use, or the reassuring heft of a media storage device not prone to disappearing down the back of the sofa?


Well, tempting though it sometimes is to regard the continued shrinking of our electronic devices as a backward step, it’s perhaps more appropriate to view the trend as a dress rehearsal for the host of really exciting, truly useful, and, dare we say it – revolutionary – technologies poised to transform our lives over the coming years.


One such technology, which has generated particular excitement in The Engineer newsroom this week, is the Pico-projector, a tiny optical device that promises to turn your mobile phone, media player, or any other handheld electronic gadget into a portable cinema.


Although a number of companies are currently working on the development of such systems, it appears that a small UK firm, Light Blue Optics may have come up with the most compelling take on the technology.


Spun out of research carried out at Cambridge University’s photonics department, the company’s first product – a mobile phone-sized projector / media player will be launched later this year. Throwing out light at a far wider angle than conventional projectors, the laser-based system can create large images almost directly adjacent to the projector aperture. It can also be touch-enabled, thus potentially turning any flat surface into a touch-sensitive display. Perhaps even more intriguingly, as we report, the company has just announced a new round of funding to develop a second generation product that would be small enough to embed within existing electronics devices.


From amusing yourself on long plane journeys, to turning your table into a full-sized computer keyboard, it’s not difficult to imagine genuinely compelling user cases for this technology. And it’s not just limited to consumer applications. Talking to The Engineer in a forthcoming interview, LBO’s CEO Dr Chris Harris explained that the system also has a number of highly promising industrial applications.



Jon Excell
Deputy Editor