If you thought pico projectors and related products were a small backwater in the projection industry, think again. PMA Research projects sales to reach close to 3.5M units this year, which is not chicken feed in this market. Mobile smart TVs, pico projectors, smart home displays as well as commercial and industrial products, plus AR and VR headsets and HUDs are all powered by pico class microdisplays. Now, TI has announced a new 1080p chip set and engine development partners that will add additional momentum to this segment.
The new chip set consists of the DLP3310 DMD and DLPC3437 controller. TI says the new DMD is the smallest 1080p microdisplay on the market. It joins two other imagers near this same size: the 0.3” WVGA and 0.3” 720p chips. The new chips will ship in the second half of 2017.
“The new 1080p chip is very close in size to the other two imagers so DLP pico optical engine manufacturers can leverage their experience to develop solutions quickly,” commented Frank Moizio, Manager, DLP Pico technology at Texas Instruments. “Our partners have samples of the chip and are already putting light on the wall. They are far enough along in development and their supply chain analysis that they are now ready to engage with customers on new projects,” concluded Moizio.
Manufacturers planning to offer an optical module utilizing DLP3310 include Shenzhen Anhua Optoelectronics Technology Co. Ltd, Coretronic Corporation, DigitalOptics Co. Ltd, Ongine Technology, Young Optics, Inc. and others.
How bright and small can the engine be, we asked? “We have seen demonstrations with brightness up to around 400 lumens so far,” said Moizio. “We expect a range of products that offer different brightness levels, form factors and features. But the optical engine will remain about the same as products using the 0.3” panels so that is size product we can expect later in 2017 – but with a little more brightness and higher resolution.”
To be clear, this chipset is using the “fast switching speed of the DMD combined with advanced image processing algorithms to enable 1920×1080 distinct pixels on screen during every frame,” according to TI.
DLP solutions are also recognized as being very energy efficient as they do not use polarized light like LCD or LCOS solutions. This should make this chip set very appealing for mobile applications.
Moizio also said they are starting to see interest in this chip set for VR and AR applications as well. We asked if the pixel shifting technique might create some unknown temporal artifacts when used in a wide field of view VR headset design. He said they did not think so, but since no one has actually implemented a pixel shifting design in a VR headset yet, the answer is not fully known.
Microdisplay-based VR headset design seems to be making a comeback vs. direct-view approaches that have become very popular recently in headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR. In a word, microdisplay-based designs add more options and flexibility in the way that designers can increase resolution, field of view and reduce size and weight. We will have to see how this plays out.