Microvision's Pocket Projector Shines, Speckles

Funky image artifacts

We finally got a look at the SHOW, Microvision's
almost-ready-for-prime-time laser projector. We certainly like the size—a
little bigger than an iPod in current form, and planned to be about iPod-sized
when other companies brand it and sell it around the end of the year.

But the video quality left us a little disappointed. Color is fantastic, thanks to the lasers. (More impressive than the white LEDs I
suspect are in 3M's projector.) But for
the same reason, the detail was a bit lacking, due to a phenomenon called
"speckle." When a laser hits a screen, some of the light bounces straight back,
into the oncoming beam, causing interference. The effect made it look like the
SHOW was projecting onto burlap instead of onto a smooth tablecloth, wall, or
screen.

And Microvision says it's not something that can be fully
fixed—just an inherent property of lasers. Although they promise the final version
will look better. (And they could eliminate speckle if LEDs progress enough to
work with Microvision's projection system.)

The folks from Microvision say that 9 out of 10 people they
showed it to didn't even notice the speckle. That seems hard to believe. But
even with the speckles, the ability to shine big-screen images anywhere you go
is awfully appealing.—Sean Captain