Symbol Developing Laser Screen Projector

Symbol Technologies has announced that it is working on a Laser Projection Display (LPD). As its name suggests, a laser beam is used to create a high quality image on any flat surface, at any distance, without refocusing.  The screen's resolution can be as large as VGA (640 x 480 pixels) and the actual image size is determined by how far from the LPD projector the wall it. At this point, the major limitation of the Symbol's LPD is it uses a single laser; therefore all images will be monochrome. However, Symbol says it can reproduce 16 levels of gray.

At just .2 cubic inches, the device is easily small enough to fit in a handheld. It uses an average of 150 mW for VGA or 50 mW for QVGA.

Symbol isn't suggesting the LPD be used as a handheld's primary display. However, it could be used as a secondary display for video, games, and presentations.

In addition, Symbol says the device could potentially be used for image capture and bar code scanning.

Companies interested in including LPDs in their handhelds should contact Symbol's Embedded Technology Group.

Symbol also makes the SPT 1800  series of ruggedized Palm OS handhelds for workforce automation.

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At the risk of sounding like a 13-year old, ...

robrecht @ 9/10/2002 10:36:36 AM #
At the risk of sounding like a 13-year old, this is awesome. No offense intened to 13-year olds.

Thanks, Robrecht
RE: At the risk of sounding like a 13-year old, ...
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 12:45:19 PM #
At the risk of sounding like a 31 year-old, I agree. This is awesome.

I think it would be great to have a video projection on a handheld -- shoot, I'd even settle for a monochrome one if reasonably priced. Imagine how much more of a laptop replacement a PDA would be if you could throw up a 15" screen on a wall (or the back of an airplane seat) and just start typing on your fold-out Bluetooth keyboard with mouse.

I'd love a CF module or sled with extra power pack. That would be the bees knees (that's what 31 year-old's say instead of "phat")

RE: At the risk of sounding like a 13-year old, ...
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 1:56:43 PM #
Wow! I'm only 26 but even I can see this is the best thing since "Presenter-To-Go" started going for less than 200 dollars... I can't wait to project a powerpoint presentation from my PDA with no laptop AND no projector! Outstanding! (Not quite as rad as PHAT or as hippie as bees knees - no offense to any hippies or bees who might be reading this).
RE: At the risk of sounding like a 13-year old, ...
ahecht @ 9/10/2002 10:08:48 PM #
I'm 18 in two hours -- and I think this is really cool. Me wantee!

At the risk of sounding like a 23-year old, ...
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/11/2002 2:24:00 AM #
and with those laser keyboards you dont even need to fold something out... seems like you only need to carry a little box and switch it on (and have some wall and surface around).

oh yes this is awesome, but of course it cant replace a lcd. or will there be "fold-out-walls"?

Markus Dresch (

RE: At the risk of sounding like a 13-year old, ...
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/21/2002 6:12:51 PM #
I am 40 and this IS great. We need this at work NOW. The power of a PC on a handheld with phone...and any lan internet abilities (wireless) and a high end 1200x1600 picture. What about combining 3 types of laser (colors) and getting full color views. Then addind full pc software and voice recognition (no keyboard needed but some wireless keyboard could be used) and a pad/trackball on your handheld, so you could use it as a mouse on the projected display. The connections would be wireless between each handheld and the server of the company. No more computers, stupid technicians, useless secretaries. All a new open universe made for the truth : communication and business, human relations. Well, it may take a couple of years to be so.


Strider_mt2k @ 9/10/2002 10:56:25 AM #
One step closer to being able to share those Death-Star plans!

RE: Finally!
Fammy @ 9/10/2002 10:58:05 AM #
Death star? The hand looks more like Spider-man


night reading

MobileMitch @ 9/10/2002 11:05:07 AM #
I have always wanted to read books, e-books or otherwise on my back without the effort of having to hold my arms above my head or kinking my neck to read it from my chest. (Yes, I am very lazy.)

This would be perfect for that.

I would buy a unit with this installed, It might be better actualy if it were a stand alone with blue tooth... I don't know. But the Gee Wizz factor alone would justify the expence of this display.

Too Bad Visor Owners!

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 11:13:20 AM #
This would have been a great Springboard!


RE: Too Bad Visor Owners!
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 12:09:19 PM #
Boy would it.

Sounds like the killjoy expert above has it right, though. Too much power use. Maybe we could come back when we have fuel cells. Some day.

RE: Too Bad Visor Owners!
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 2:01:30 PM #
I don't think it's the input power (it only has to go for 30 minutes) as much as the output power. I was very disappointed to read the cogent argument from the expert above. I hope Symbol *have* got round this problem... although I don't see how

Displays 16 shades of gray

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 11:16:55 AM #
Maybe they could talk to Palm and come up with some creative marketing to increase the number of shades of gray that this can display. Technically, gray is a color so they could call it a color display and potentially boost it to thousands of color combinations.
RE: Displays 16 shades of gray
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 11:29:19 AM #
Looks red to me.
RE: Displays 16 shades of gray
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 11:43:19 AM #
you are not counting the dithering effect of the wall. It's really 254,985 possible colors, counting the color sun glasses you are wearing.
RE: Displays 16 shades of gray
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 12:50:28 PM #
Heck that's close enough to call is True Color! I'm sure nobody would know the difference!
RE: Displays 16 shades of gray
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 2:24:13 PM #
Excellent point about the sunglasses. Maybe 3D glasses would add some depth and we could increase the color combinations that way.
RE: Displays 16 shades of gray
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/11/2002 12:21:48 AM #
Coming up next on Palm Infocenter, you'll see a dead horse beat into the ground.

Millions of people bought the m130. Millions of people are happy with it. You've expressed your negative opinion of dithering multiple times. We understand that you don't like dithering. No one cares, especially not those millions who are happy with their m130s. Its time to move on.

RE: Displays 16 shades of gray
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/11/2002 2:44:25 AM #
How many m130s are out there exactly? anybody knows? Palm sells about 300K units last quarter if I am not mistaken, so there couldn't be 2 millions m130 already.

anybody knows the number?

Laser Projector

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 11:04:55 AM #
Hate to spoil the fun, but I dont think it will work. I know because we have been playing around with this kind of stuff for the last 12 years. We are a manufacturer of Laser Display Systems

Two problems exist...

Brightness, in order for the image to appear bright enough for people to see, the laser would have to be of a moderate power level. This would cause problems fitting this into a mobile phone, then you have battery life to worry about. Raster scanning a laser beam is very wasteful in terms of the brightness of the final image. That's one of the reasons the Laser Display industry tends to use vector images

Health & Safety, even if the above could be solved, the laser would then be too powerful to use safely. Laser pointers are limited to a maximum of 5mw (CLASS 3A) Any laser pointers above this level are illegal to use in the EEC. Lasers with powers exceeding the CLASS 3A, normally need to be operated by trained personnel, and have various safety features to stop a beam being scanned into the human eye.

...And the're talking about putting these things into kids toys - Hmmm

In my humble opinion, either they don't know what they are getting involved with, or they have announced this to increase share prices :)

Shame because it seems a nice idea :(

James Stewart
Laser Visuals Limited
United Kingdom

RE: Laser Projector
Hfukuda @ 9/10/2002 11:50:30 AM #
Even if the laser was a high output device but it was constantly scanning, then the equivalent output at any one point would be less than that of a class 3 (or whatever it may be called elsewhere) device, right?

You could always hold it up to your eye and go blind, but a proximity sensor of some kind (if it can read bar-codes, then it would have a sensor) could prevent that. That way, even if it was scanning into your eye, the device wouldn't work unless it detected that it was far enough awyay to be safe.

just speculating...

RE: Laser Projector
laservisuals @ 9/10/2002 12:36:43 PM #
Yes, it's true that the laser power would be dispersed (640 x 480 = 307,200th of the power) - but to get a "full size screen" as their press release indicates, my experience tells me the laser will need to be > 3A, or you will only be able to see it in a fully blacked out room.

The problem the Laser Display Industry has when ever we want to stage a public show( which generally use Class 3B and 4 lasers), is to convince the Health and Safety authorities that the scanning mechanism will not fail. Because it is pretty much impossible to guarantee that the scan system is fail proof, legislation states that in the US no scanning can take place at audience level, and here in the UK the guidelines state that the laser must be 3m above ground level.

I'm interested to see how Symbol solve this issue...

RE: Laser Projector
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 1:40:18 PM #
Your power calculations assume scanning at a constant rate. They may not be scanning at a constant rate, reducing necessary power by an order of magnitude or two.
RE: Laser Projector
maven @ 9/10/2002 2:12:54 PM #
There are others working on similar technology. Microvision has some nice laser displays, some of which actually draw the image on your retina (lower power, of course).

I live in an age where I don't think we can *ever* say something is impossible. (Just look at Liberty. Everyone said a GameBoy emulator was impossible on the Palm, and yet we did it)

RE: Laser Projector
laservisuals @ 9/10/2002 2:46:14 PM #
The calculation I was using is based on raster scanning the images, which is what would needs to be carried out to produce a VGA display, or indeed video. - What happens when you need to show a light colour or almost white(red in this case) screen, - the laser needs to be bright enough to cover the whole display area.

I suspect they may be using the TI Digital Light Mirrors to create the images which may well have better fail safe properties to the mechanical scanners we us in the light industry. (They will need to if they are going to put into phones and toys)

My feeling is still that the display would not appear very bright, for if it was possible, with an acceptable output, laser projection monitors would be in there competing with LCD Projectors, and Plasma Screens, that we all know about in the home entertainment arena of electronics. - I may be wrong of course, ...but I believe Sony and Philips were researching Laser Projectors many years ago.

Yes, laser retina scanning is good, but then again it uses a harmless laser of uWatts, as it only needs to project an image several mm square over a very short distance into the eyeball.

All I wanted to do in making my original comments is make it clear that I think they have several important issues to address before their "concept product" becomes a reality, so we don't all get excited putting it on this year's Santa List.

James Stewart
Laser Visuals Limited
United Kingdom

RE: Laser Projector
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 3:18:00 PM #
Seems there's at least some room here. I just toyed with the Socket CF laser barcode scanner (a Symbol class 2 laser OEM module) on my HE330. Set the scan duration to a minute and a beam width of 100 degrees. At 2 feet from a white wall (standard office fluorescent lighting and diffused window sunlight), I still got a very bright 2 foot 4 inch line. The scan rate is not that fast. I would imagine a much higher scan rate and a brighter laser one might well accomplish a usable display. Certainly my one dimensional image is wider and as bright as my Thinkpad display. I don't think you're going to get this as a projector replacement, but then I'm not sure Symbol isn't touting it for that use. They state the indended applications as:
Miniature projectors
Auxiliary displays for laptops, PDAs or cell phones
Pocket projection TV
Games and toys

"miniature projectors" makes no claim to resultant image size. If you're only looking for monitor or TV sized 640x480, this could 'project' that from a 2-5 foot distance it would seem.

Outside office hours it might be nice to have PalmReader projected on the ceiling above your bed, and have BigClock display the time on the ceiling when the alarm (and subsequent snooze cycles) go off in your hotel room.

Now watch how many people project nasty-grams to inconsiderate drivers, on that rear of the vehicle in front of the target driver.

Or projecting some appropriate 'signage' on the back of the police officer walking back to his car, post ticket.

Or the running commentary quips/captions in the movie theater by the projection PDA toting teen in the front row.

Maybe it's better that Symbol keep the price of this as obscene as their current barcode scanners.

-Craig Bowers

RE: Laser Projector
Hfukuda @ 9/10/2002 9:23:29 PM #
Since the safety issue has to be resolved for them to come to market with this thing, I was wondering whether the choice of a red laser would be 'safer' since red has a lower wavelength and thus would have less energy. But then, I saw the 'DPSS vs. Argon' section on your website and the part about the eye being much more sensitive to green light. So, would green give more 'bang for the risk' than red?

Also, I noticed that Symbol's page gives a figure of 150 and 50mW for power consumption. I know that the support electronics would draw some of that juice, but that still is way over the figure of 5mW that you gave for the safe limit. The share-price argument just got a little stronger in my mind.

RE: Laser Projector
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 9:44:28 PM #
What happens when you need to show a light colour or almost white(red in this case) screen, - the laser needs to be bright enough to cover the whole display area.

You are assuming that the display can display arbitrary raster content brightly. That's not necessary in order to be useful, and they don't claim to be able to do that.

There are plenty of other things they could do. For example. they could be using a linear arrangements of a larger number of little lasers and scan that. That would result not only in safe power levels but also improved refresh.

RE: Laser Projector
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/11/2002 5:10:53 PM #
I personally saw a working prototype at the SID conference in Boston this past August (SID is a display technology conference). The prototype was larger than the .2 cubic inch thing they are claiming, but by no means could you say it was large, maybe 3 cubic inches hardwired to a power supply. The laser image resembled a high contrast version of the image on the screen - ie, you primarly saw the edges of objects highlighed by the laser. The laser image was definitely using a rastering technique and it did flicker noticeably, but it was easily readable and bright enough to stand out in a well lit conference booth. The image was projected downward onto the table from about a one foot vantage point.
RE: Laser Projector
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/11/2002 8:47:00 PM #
May be this is too dim and too small for handheld devices. Why can't we make it slightly larger and powered by AC for shrinking the projectors we are using for computers?
RE: Laser Projector
laservisuals @ 9/13/2002 9:26:00 AM #
To Answer the question about green and red lasers. Yes a Green laser would appear much brighter than a red laser of the same output power.

The reason for this is that the peak of the human eye's sensitivity is at the 555nm wavelength - which appears as bright lime green. The solid state green lasers that are used in the display industry produce a wavelength pretty near to this at 532nm. Red diode lasers generally produce wavelengths of 630-670nm, which appear much dimmer for the same given power.

The problem with Green lasers at the moment is that they are more complex than simple red diodes, larger, and consume more energy to produce a beam of light.

I look forward to seeing one of the projectors in action, but I suspect it would not appeal to the crowd that moaned about the brightness on the m505 not being up to scratch. (In fact as an m505 user myself, I thought the m505 backlight was fine - but that's a different can of worms!)

RE: Laser Projector
erik.b.andersen @ 6/16/2007 2:35:08 AM #
I've read on Encarta that some lasers can be made to shift wavelength. If this is so they need to make it fast enough to switch between red, green and blue. It would have to refresh 3 times faster, but then it would be capable of all the colors. I do think they should try to make it for a normal projector first, then for handhelds.


I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 12:29:01 PM #
This sounds like a nifty car HUD module... and with the collision-detection stuff, you could even get a targeting reticle on that jerk in front of you ;)
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 3:53:18 PM #
Or maybe you could burn "Use your turn signals!" onto someone's retina!
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 6:28:17 PM #
There's a twist on 'pervasive advertising'...
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/10/2002 7:19:35 PM #
"Or maybe you could burn "Use your turn signals!" onto someone's retina!"

YES! That would be wonderful.

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/11/2002 8:21:22 AM #
Yes this would be a handy thing to have. God knows I could have used it many times before to cut myself out of sinking ships and locked vaults.

Referring to a previous article.

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/12/2002 10:38:40 PM #
This topic was actually brought up from a comment on a news article from this site called "Portsmith Developing Presentation Tool", posted in May.

It's the third comment from the top called "A better method".
From this, we can kind of see how fast technology goes relative to our imagination.



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