Alps Electric aims high with pocket projectors

TOKYO, JAPAN and CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND-Alps Electric Co., a global electronic components manufacturer, has been granted an exclusive license to the University of Cambridge’s core patent for a holographic video projector technology, developed in the Department of Engineering.

TOKYO, JAPAN and CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND-Alps Electric Co., a global electronic components manufacturer, has been granted an exclusive license to the University of Cambridge’s core patent for a holographic video projector technology, developed in the Department of Engineering. The company says it intends to manufacture miniature projectors based on the University’s patented technology that will be highly energy efficient, will always be in focus, and will be extremely robust. These qualities would make them ideal for building into laptops, mobile phones and all manner of devices.

Alps Electric’s exclusive license has been agreed by Cambridge Enterprise, which helps University of Cambridge inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs make their ideas and concepts more commercially successful. Alps Electric is working in close collaboration with the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge to refine the technology, as a strategic partner in the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE). The collaborative team has built a prototype that was demonstrated in Tokyo earlier this year.

“Our work with the University of Cambridge will put this groundbreaking miniature projection technology into everyday use in the shortest timescale possible,” said Motohiro Shimaoka, Board Director and Head of Business Development Headquarters for Alps Electric. “The miniature projectors we will manufacture will make conventional light valve data projectors obsolete and will find applications that range from business presentation support, to automotive head up displays to mobile entertainment, anywhere at any time.”

The industrial side of the project is led by Alps Electric Chief Engineer in the UK, Jamieson Christmas, a Cambridge PhD researcher and inventor of a patented algorithm that has produced what is believed to be the world’s highest quality reconstructed image using phase-only projection. The technology works by converting the image to be projected into a phase-only holographic pattern. This pattern is displayed inside the projector on a small, fast, high-definition liquid crystal over silicon panel. A laser is trained on to the panel, and the light bouncing off each of the millions of points of the pattern interferes to reconstruct the original picture on a conventional white screen, the office wall or any convenient surface. According to the researchers, the lasers are very efficient, and the holographic technique ensures that virtually all of their light can be used to reconstruct the projected image.

“This may be the first mass-market application of real-time holography,” said Bill Crossland, Chair of CAPE and one of the leading inventors on the core patent, as well as principal investigator for the collaborative research project with Alps Electric.

“I have been working on this idea with my colleagues for over 10 years, looking forward to the day when computer processing power, lasers, and liquid crystal technology would become sufficiently advances to put our ideas into practice.”

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