It often happens that an old concept gets a second or third life via new technologies. Sometimes that gives it a welcome new life, sometimes you wish it had stayed dead-and-gone, and often, it allows that that older concept to be adapted to, and spur, new paths and opportunities.
That's how I feel about picoprojectors, which turn your smartphone into a miniature, LED-based image-projection system. What made me think about this was a major announcement this week from Intersil Corp, comprising a chipset and detailed OEM reference design for picoprojectors , in conjunction with an optical module from Micron Technology. (Read fellow editor Margery Conner's detailed description, "Intersil’s LCoS pico projector system shrinks size while cutting costs.")
The obvious use of a picoprojector is to let you easily share images with a group of friends or co-workers; these could be your vacation, family, or party photos; a work-related Powerpoint presentation; or photos of your device under test (DUT) and the test set-up, for further team analysis and review. Some of these uses seem to make a lot of sense, but others induce some déjà vu and even some nostalgic fear here.
Why do I feel that way? Way back in the day, if you had vacation photos to share with family and friends, you could co it one of two ways: via a stack of physical prints, or by using 35mm slides, usually via an slide carousel with 80 (or 140) slide capacity and a slide projector.
Let me tell you, you knew it was going to be a long, long visit when you went to cousin Joe's house and he pulled out a few carousels loaded with pictures from his recent vacation. The room was usually darkened, so while you might be able to catch some shut-eye, you would be considered impolite if you didn't pay attention to each and every slide.
Of course, the picoprojector is not the same as a slide projector, except in the coarsest sense. Since it is so quick and easy to show a few images using the picoprojector, you can in principle show just one or two images to your friends, yet not have to pass your phone around so they can look at the small-ish images on the phone's screen. So, maybe the pain will be far less than my recollection of a full-on slide-projector session conjures.
But I think there are likely alternative paths, and they are ones we don't even yet know. As with most technical advances, where they actually take us, and what they enable, is something we can't really envision with much accuracy (assignment: stop for a minute, think, and you can make your own list here).
Perhaps picoprojectors will let us project the equivalent of a full-size page from a user manual or map (so we can find or fix something), and so make hard copies less necessary. Or maybe they will spur more frequent and quicker team design reviews, as everyone looks at a part of the flow chart or project plan.
History and experience teach us many things, and one thing we see over and over is that our ability to foresee where technology changes will actually take us is fairly limited. Because of that, I'm hopeful that picoprojectors won’t just simply bring us back to a higher-tech version of those old, often painful slide shows.
Where do you think they will lead? And are there any other old, possibly obsolete technologies that you think will be re-appearing in a new embodiment, and which are giving you either good (or maybe not-so-good) feelings? ?