Texas Instruments brings sci-fi tech to life with DLP (hands-on video)

We've come across a number of DLP-based pico projectors over the years and while these products are getting smaller, brighter and higher resolution, it's the integration with other devices that's really captured our imagination. Samsung's Galaxy Beam, which we reviewed last year, merges a 15-lumen nHD (640x360) DLP-based pico projector with a Galaxy S Advance. More recently at CES 2013, Texas Instruments announced its new Tilt & Roll Pixel chip architecture and demoed a handful of other DLP-equipped products live on our stage, including 3M's Streaming Projector and Smart Devices' U7 tablet.

The company recently invited us to play with some of these devices and to show us other applications in areas such as 3D printing, 3D scanning, optical research, medical imaging and even automotive. Some of this DLP-equipped tech, like the Interactive Center Console, shows where we're headed in the near future -- other products, like Christie's VeinViewer Flex, exist today but remind us of something right out of science-fiction. Take a look at our galleries below, then join us after the break for our hands-on video and more info on these devices.

Here's what we got to see:

  • 3M's Streaming Projector ($299) is a 60-lumen WVGA (800x480) battery-powered pico-projector which incorporates a dock for Roku's Streaming Stick (included). It runs just under three hours on a charge and includes an infrared remote, built-in speakers and a headphone jack.

  • Samsung's Galaxy Beam ($430 contract free) combines a Galaxy S Advance with a 15-lumen nHD (640x360) pico projector in a 12.5mm thick package. As mentioned in our review, specs include a 4-inch WVGA (800x480) TFT display, 5-megapixel AF camera, 1GHz dual-core Novathor CPU, 768MB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage (plus microSD), 2000mAh battery, quad-band GSM / EDGE and UMTS / HSPA+ radios, WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).

  • China Mobile's battery-powered pico projector is about half the size of Apple's iPhone 4 / 4S but slightly thicker and features the same industrial design. We don't have any details on this product other than it was a gift by the carrier to customers signing up for certain higher-tiered data plans.

  • Smart Devices' U7 tablet ($320 and $400) blends a 7-inch tablet with a 40-lumen WVGA (800x480) pico projector into an 11mm-14.4mm thick shell. Two models are available, one with a 1.0GHz dual-core OMAP 4430 CPU and 8GB of built-in storage and the other with a 1.5GHz dual-core OMAP 4460 CPU and 16GB on board. Both tablets feature 1GB RAM plus a microSD slot, 7-inch WSVGA (1024x600) IPS display, 2-megapixel camera, 4800mAh battery, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and Android 4.1.1 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Battery life is about 3.5 hours when using the projector.

Texas Instruments brings scifi tech to life with DLP handson video
  • Aiptek's MobileCinema i50D ($200) is a 35-lumen VGA (640x480) battery-powered pico projector compatible with most of Apple's 30-pin iOS devices (iPad / iPhone / iPod touch). It runs about two hours on a charge or powers an iPhone / iPod touch as an external battery.

  • EnvisionTEC's Perfactory Micro is a 3D printer that uses a DLP-based pico projector to cure a fine photosensitive resin into multiple volumetric pixels and fuse them together into a high-resolution object.

  • Seikowave's iCEπ is a 3D scanner that features a pico projector and a camera. A light pattern is projected onto an object while a synchronized camera measures and processes the light that's reflected, resulting in a 3D scan. This provides the oil industry with a way to monitor pipe thickness, for example.

  • Texas Instruments' DLP LightCrafter development kit is designed to give scientists and engineers full control over the chips that drive the pico projector, allowing them create and test new DLP applications.

  • Christie's VeinViewer Flex is a medical imaging product that combines an infrared camera and a pico projector to show a person's veins in real-time -- just hold the device a few inches away, like a Tricorder. The camera measures the heat below the skin and detects veins which are then projected back onto the skin.

  • Texas Instruments' Interactive Center Console is a concept that uses a pico projector and infrared camera to replace the car's traditional center console display and controls. Unlike large capacitive touchscreens like the one found in the Tesla Model S, the display area can be curved and incorporate multi-purpose physical knobs since the user interface is merely projected from inside the center console. The camera is able to detect multiple fingers, hover vs. touch and whether the driver or the passenger is operating the controls -- it even works with gloved hands. All of this is powered by the company's new OMAP 5 processor (two Cortex A15 cores, two Cortex M4 cores and PowerVR SGX-544 graphics) running QNX. The system can also be outfitted with a DLP-based heads-up display and is expected to hit the market sometime in 2018.