For the past nine years, Ostendo Technologies has been developing miniature projectors. The Carlsbad, California-based startup is particularly interested in projecting glasses-free 3D images for smartphones. Ostendo’s projectors are about the size of a Tic Tac, and are powered by a computer chip estimated to cost about $30. The startup expects the first 2D projectors to be sold to consumers in the summer of 2015, with the 3D projectors following in the second half of 2015.
Past attempts at floating virtual objects typically involved large machines, computer graphics and a system of mirrors, as was the case with the Tupac Shakur hologram at Coachella in 2012.
“Ostendo’s projectors, in contrast, are roughly the size of Tic Tacs, powered by a computer chip that can control the color, brightness and angle of each beam of light across one million pixels,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “One chipset, small enough to fit into a smartphone, is capable of projecting video on a surface with a 48-inch diagonal. A patchwork of chips, laid together, can form far larger and more complex images.”
The key to Ostendo’s 3D capability is its resolution, which at 5,000 dots per inch, dramatically exceeds, for example, the Retina display for Apple’s iPhone at 300 dots per inch.
“Imagine if everything coming back to you was in 3D — all of your shopping, all of your gaming, every way you retrieve data,” suggests Dr. Hussein El-Ghoroury, Ostendo chief exec and founder.
VR is becoming a major trend. Microsoft and AMD are both working on virtual reality rooms, Facebook recently acquired Oculus VR, and Sony has plans to introduce its Project Morpheus system to the PlayStation console. And like Ostendo, Hewlett-Packard’s company Leia is attempting to bring 3D imaging to smartphones.