The Evolution of Projection Technology
Elizabeth Dourley and Liz Jefferys
Corporate America was first introduced to projection technology in the 1950s. Although the technology itself has changed dramatically since that time, conceptually it has remained the same. The opaque projectors which were the sole option of the 50’s have given way to a multitude of options in the 21st century where one’s choice of technology will likely hinge on the material to be projected.Opaque Projectors - One of the earliest forms of projection, the opaque projector, allows the user to project printed material or small objects without having to convert them to another medium.
In use for nearly sixty years, the opaque projector projects the object by shining a bright lamp on the material to be viewed and directing the reflected light through a projection lens. Documents, photos, magazines, books, and small 3-dimensional objects can be projected with the opaque projector provided the user remains mindful of the heat generated by the light source and the potential for damage to heat sensitive documents or objects.
Slide Projectors - Slide projectors have also been around since the 1950's.
Overhead Projectors - In some ways an overhead projector is very much like a slide projector in that the information to be viewed must be transferred to another medium, in this case a transparent sheet of flexible material known as a transparency. A transparency of any document can be easily generated with a copy machine. Once created, the transparency can be placed on an overhead projector and projected onto a wall or screen using a lamp and optics that are built into the projector. One of the benefits of the overhead projector is the ability to annotate the projected image while presenting. Overhead projectors are still widely used.
Digital Projection Panels - In the late 1980's overhead projectors found further use with the introduction of digital projection panels.
Within a year of their introduction, video projector panels were introduced and were quickly followed by multimedia projector panels that could support video and data. Projection panels are still in use, but as prices drop and performance continues to improve, they are quickly being replaced by data projectors, video projectors and multimedia projectors.
Computer Projectors - the fully integrated digital data projector came into existence in the early 1990's and served primarily as a computer display projector for business, education and training.
Video Projectors - The digital video projector also came into being in the early 1990's and like the early computer projectors, they were large, heavy and expensive.
Video projectors also serve nicely as TV projectors that can project your satellite receiver programming or local broadcasts. With today’s TV projector you can also attach a DVD player or any of the high definition DVD players and enjoy a movie of your choosing. There are even TV projectors with integrated DVD players and audio systems that provide a video boom-box for home entertainment that can be easily taken from room to room with minimum setup.
Home Theater Projectors - The home theater projector is perhaps the most rapidly growing market segment now that a home movie theater experience is possible for a very nominal cost for the do-it-yourselfer.
A home theater projector can achieve a 100+ inch image for a fraction of the cost of LCD or plasma flat panel. These home theater systems now compete with the neighborhood cinema and to remain competitive many movie houses are replacing their film projectors with high definition digital projectors, a larger version of the type one would buy for the home.
Multimedia Projectors - The early multimedia projectors combined video, data and audio as a universal solution.
Pocket Projectors - The first pocket projectors were introduced in 2005 by Mitsubishi and they were small enough to fit in the palm of a hand.
The future of pocket projectors is very promising as optics are reduced, light output improved, packaging reduced, and prices fit for a consumer market. We expect to see the technology in everything from toys to portable computers.
Conclusion – The projection industry has come full circle. Today a multimedia projector brings back many of the features found on the opaque projector, slide projector and overhead projector through the use of document cameras. These handy devices can be connected to any projector, or in some cases, they are integrated into the projector, giving the presenter the opportunity to project a document, transparency, or 3 dimensional object.
What is perhaps the greatest achievement in the evolution of this technology is how rapidly the performance improved and the size diminished while prices continued to fall. In the coming years you can expect to see smaller, lighter and cheaper projectors with better resolution and performance as new technologies such as lasers, LEDs and electrode-less lamps emerge.
Further reductions in size will make pocket projectors a functional reality. All the indicators point to a near future where consumers will be shopping for an iProjector to plug into an iPod or iPhone.