EFY team caught up with Kent Novak, Senior VP and GM, DLP Products, Texas Instruments, who talked about TI’s DLP technology and how it’s playing an enabling role in the growth of affordable and brighter Pico Projectors. Excerpts from the conversation:
Rohini Lakshane: For the benefit of our readers can you describe DLP Technology in a simple fashion?
Kent Novak: What we are able to do is essentially put mirrors on top active silicon, and then be able to flip those mirrors to a light source or away from light source, thousands of times per second. And on a given chip – these are some examples here – there are anywhere between hundreds of thousands of mirrors, or upto 8 million mirrors on each individual chip. As where we used that – display technology and industrial applications as well.
EFY: So what are the devices that run DLP?
KN: One of the biggest applications are being driven by smart phones. For example, there is now a sleeve for iPhones that can be put on your device and can project images stored on your iPhone using a DLP Pico projector! It has a battery in it so it doesn’t run down the battery on the iPhone. When you put them together, then for the video, here you go. There can be anything that you want to display on the screen in the iPhone that you can display in the projector mode and share. Some other applications include shared gaming, being able to communicate with the projected image, being able to pass information through projected image. And we are able to do that, we are actually able to that with a DLP chip just because of how much information we can put through the light source and the flipping mirrors.
EFY: So what are the applications that you are banking upon to drive adoption of DLP in India?
KN: I think a huge growth opportunity, we believe, across the world but also specifically in India, is being able to put projection inside consumer devices. We’ll use cellphones as an example. Typically, I mean, using the cellphone during the day, but also being able to do streaming video, video downloads, mobile TV. Cricket’s nearly year around but whenever cricket season is in full swing, whenever tournaments or matches are on, being able to have that, share that information, talk about highlights or even being able to watch that, and all the sessions in groups. So that’s an application we have seen started outside India and that we think can be quite prevalent. You can also use that in health and human services, for remote education, any sort of information that the government would want to share, especially in the villages, anywhere that you are able to get mobile service, then you could share images, then you could be able to communicate and teach with those images.
EFY: What is the price point that we are talking about that, if we talk about this technology? How, I would say, cheaper or more expensive is it as compared to similar technologies?
KN: I think from cost or price perspective, the technologies are very similar. I think it’s important that we have higher brightness and higher efficiency because that lets a brighter image that holds up to ambient light, or that makes the battery last longer. I think the general point on cost is very important. And what we’ve seen inside the technology is the technology has improved significantly in past 2 or 3 years in terms of brightness but it has also decreased the price significantly.
I think the simple answer is another factor that would help decrease in price with time is the total solution includes the DLP chip, includes LEDs, and includes electronics. With volume, all three of those are going to reduce in cost, but especially the investment going into the lighting market right now with LEDs, consumer LEDs, automotive LEDs and industrial lighting. So, I think we’ll continue to see those improve in technology, so the solutions will be brighter but they’ll also be cheaper. In think in its ultimate form – remember what, when you first saw camera inside a cellphone and it was expensive, and you thought why would you ever want a camera in a cellphone- but, I think if we get more and more applications, and the technology becomes ubiquitous, hopefully, we would see people wanting to have shared experiences and be able to project, whether its streaming video or mobile TV, that will have to be much more prevalent, of course, then the cost would continue to decrease.
EFY: You just mentioned the use of this technology in education. Can you elaborate on that?
KN: I think in education there are a couple of big opportunities for us. When I say “us” that not only includes Texas Instruments but also the students.
One we have talked about previously which is 3D. Because we can move the mirrors so quickly, on the same chip, we can do, we can do left eye- right eye image. Which means you don’t have to have two projectors to do 3D, which makes 3D much more affordable, and you don’t have to pay the premium to get the 3D capability out there. We have worked with schools, and particularly Queen Mary Schoool, here inside Delhi, to do a pilot study on 3D education and how students learn in 3D for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Those were the courseware. Studies in India along with studies in rest of the world have shown that students learn better, have better retention, learn faster, and have better test scores. So in that scenario we want to continue to work with software developers, content developers, with the government in India, with private schools, and particularly we work with Educomp that help to bring our technology into private schools. And so they are helping to focus on 3D. I do believe that the Pico technology, either in devices like this, or anything that we may purpose-build will include some mobile connectivity at a lower price point. More functionality, I think could benefit education very much as well. I think there are about a million schools or five million classrooms inside India. Clearly there’s a great opportunity there to roll out more technology in classrooms.