At the Mobile World Congress that took place from 15–18 February in Barcelona, Texas Instruments announced the commercial launch of a chip that will allow even the thinnest flip-style cellular handsets to feature miniature projectors. These so-called pico projectors can create 640-by-360-pixel images as big as 50 inches diagonal. TI's latest digital light processor, or DLP, chip exploits the company's MEMS technology, whereby millions of tiny moveable mirrors reflect red, green, and blue light from LEDs onto a wall or curtain.

The chips will also start appearing in digital cameras this year, which means no more crowding around someone's SLR to see the shots he or she just took.

Earlier-generation chips using TI’s digital light-processor technology are already making their way into larger handsets and freestanding projectors. The freestanding units, which are the size of a deck of playing cards, let people travel with all they need for business presentations or can be used as add-ons to media players, gaming consoles, and laptop computers.

For more on what's out there and what's to come, take a look at an IEEE Spectrumvideo podcast featuring palm-size projectors put through their paces.



The Conversation (0)
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Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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