Is 1080p Resolution Really Necessary for Pico Projection?

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MicroVision Projection Continuum

Recently, we had the opportunity to discuss pico projection with Dale Zimmerman, VP of R&D at MicroVision, a leading developer of laser-based microdisplay technology.  We covered a number of topics with the company, including the maturation of their Gen 2 PicoP design, their recent partnership announcements for bringing the technology to market, and the evolving ecosystem that will bring pico projection to the masses.   


During our conversation, we discussed their ongoing efforts to increase brightness and image quality, where they continue to make great strides.  Their latest Gen 2 PicoP engine design currently supports 25 lumens at 720p resolution.  All this in packed into an engine not much larger than a quarter and thinner than a pencil!  Their roadmap for further improvements pushes brightness much higher than this going into the future.  


When asked about higher resolutions, however, Dale indicated that 1080p is not as high of a priority, as compared to improving brightness and image quality.  While they know how to do full HD with PicoP display technology, they indicate that it is not a necessary feature at this time.  This really intrigued us.  Isn't more pixels better?  The more we thought about it, perhaps 1080p isn't really necessary at this time.  


MicroVision is focused on the battery-powered pico projection market, where mobility is key.  In order to create a superior mobile experience you want a display engine that is small, efficient, and generates vibrant images.  Generally speaking, a battery-powered pico projector is used to generate images from 20-40 inches in size (give or take).  Going much larger than this requires the user to stand further from the projection surface, where you get diminishing returns as the image becomes washed out and image details are more difficult to discern with the eye.  Check out the PowerPoint slide MicroVision sent us showing a comparison of various projector types.


Much like the debates when 1080p started to become available for HDTVs, the debate over 1080p for pico projection is heating up.  Companies like Compound Photonics are touting the benefits of their 1080p LCOS display engine.  But, in order to fully appreciate these resolutions, the image size needs to be big - we're talking 7 feet or more.   


Another limitation for the need for a 1080p mobile projector is the content and transfer speeds.  Currently, there is limited content available that supports full-HD on a mobile platform.  In addition, mobile carriers are limiting the bandwidth its users can access.  So, that 1080p pico projector may only be projecting DVD-quality content.   So, is 1080p resolution necessary?  The answer seems to be not yet.  Until image brightness can support acceptable images of greater than 7 feet with lots of full-HD content available and improved mobile bandwidth, we think 720p is probably just fine. 


MicroVision's focus on brightness and image quality make sense.  And, when 1080p becomes necessary, they feel they have a path to get there as well.  Now, when will the race for 4K begin?  Check out an exclusive video from MicroVision showing some of the unique advantages of their Gen 2 PicoP technology.



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