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Archive for the ‘optics’ Category

Miniature projector coming to make large display ubiquitous – MEMS mirror to help

Posted by evolvingwheel on January 13, 2008

I was surfing through some CES 2008 news this weekend with an eye for some new, upcoming technologies that could change the ways we behave. And, I came across this new pocket sized device, a mini laser powered projector that can display pictures and videos to a size of 100 inches on a wall! It is again the MEMS (microelectromechanical system) tool (a scanning mirror on a silicon chip) that is enabling this innovation. The product is Microvision’s PICO SHOW Projector. For the CES report in Popular Science, read [here]. For Microvision’s product detail, click [here]. accessory_big.jpg

First, thinking about the applications that could derive from this innovation. Microvision has enlisted several display opportunities of their application. But the possibilities could go way beyond that. The whole benefit of getting away from bulky lenses, heat, weight, and cost pays for the invention by itself. However, consider what this development can enable in the mobile device market. First of all, the reality of laser powered projection systems is like a dream coming true. What Microvision did (or doing) is taking the ‘sharpening of the technology’ opensource, well partial opensource at least. They are working with mobile device companies to integrate their tool into the OEM’s interface. Now, what this leads to is collective investment, R&D, and marketing support of PICO’s rapid commercialization and acceptance in the market. I kind of love this method – create a new technology and empower it on other accepted platform with devices from partner businesses powering your own growth.

Next comes MEMS. Again, I am slowly turning into a MEMS’ fanatic and in next 5 years would possibly end up opening a whole cult group for this :). I am pasting here one line from Microvision’s site about the advantage of MEMS in new age – ‘Inherent advantages of MEMS devices are high reliability, low power operation, small size, low cost to manufacture, and high scalability to volume production. If you read the method of projection delivery using these MEMS scanning mirrors, you will really feel the power of these miniature systems… http://www.microvision.com/technology/mems.html. Micro electro-mechanical systems amaze me with their reliability in such small sizes. Further, the scalability and volume integration do not compound the energy requirements like we observe in conventional electrical or mechanical objects!

Posted in Innovation, investment, laser, micron, optics | 1 Comment »

More applications for ‘smart’ sunglasses

Posted by evolvingwheel on October 23, 2007

The ‘Informance’ sunglass displays a stopwatch and heartrate on one edge – the athlete adjuts his breathing rate and speed while he closes in for his last one mile stretch. On the left edge of the glass screen, the runner could read scrolling temperature and steps/minute. All these is made available by a thin wedge-shaped prism is built into the left edge of the lens.

Rodenstock, a German lens manufacturer, has developed these sunglasses with an estimated steep price tag for it’s tentative commercial release in 2009. We have head-up displays for defence. Fighter pilots have head-mounted display mounted on their view finder/glass in their helmets. But embedding these display capabilities make the equipment very heavy and are not feasible for a light sunglass that often stands as a signature of fashion. Rodenstock has brought an innovation that makes the lens much lighter. For details, read [here].

What makes this thing cool is the wireless link that connects the glass with a digital clock reading pulse beats, body temperature, and ambient humidity. I believe that this innovation could be further stretched by blending the display unit into the lens – to maintain the look and feel of a cool shade. Some of cool applications could be:

  1. Connect wireless devices with the glass – a flashing ringer that will alert you of an incoming call.
  2. Show time/stopwatch/lap time fed from a wireless transmitter in the viscinity – a stadium.
  3. Show heartbeat and other physical attributes being transmitted by receptors attached to the body.

—————— while doing the research ————————————————————

Guys: While doing the research for this article, I came across a product with the ability of watching video from iPod on a glass mountable video display – totally portable! You may check it out.


Posted in Communication, glass, Innovation, optics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Metamaterial refracts light the other way – Fundamental research in optics

Posted by evolvingwheel on October 15, 2007

A research group from Princeton has developed a metamaterial from the semiconductors in a computer chip that is capable of refracting light in the opposite direction from the conventional materials. This breakthrough has been achieved by arranging the semiconductor materials in an alternate pattern in a 3-dimensional format. Earlier, metamaterials were being created in a 2-dimensional format. However, this 3-dimensional arrangement has been able to create the novel property of bending light in the negative direction. The research detail can be found [here].

The research is part of a multi-institutional research center called Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE). MIRTHE is a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center headquartered at Princeton University, with partners City College New York, Johns Hopkins University, Rice, Texas A&M, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.


The negative refraction achieved in the metamaterial will be able to create microscopes with many fold higher magnification than the conventional ones. The negative refraction property used in flat lenses could compensate the optical aberration created by curved lenses. Furthermore, this research can open the doorway for minuscule particle detection systems using IR light source and sophisticated sensors.

Posted in Infrared, Innovation, materials, optics | Leave a Comment »

Liquid Lens – thinner and cost effective

Posted by evolvingwheel on July 28, 2007

A German research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering, Jena, Germany, has come up with a liquid lens that has no mechanical moving parts and can switch between two levels of magnification in a flick of a switch. The most amazing part of the development is the size and weight advantage of the device. The lens works on the principle of bending of light between multiple liquid layers of varying densities. The boundaries between these liquid boundaries are manipulated by applying a small voltage across them. Light is then made to focus by making it pass through those controlled boundaries. liq_lens.jpg

One big application that the researchers are betting on is in the zoom lenses. Commercial zoom lenses are heavy, large, and expensive with innumerable lenses packed together. Liquid lenses can provide a new alternative with no moving parts. The size advantage is incredible too. However, the biggest hurdle is to create a whole range of magnification rather than two specific magnifications. The researchers are working on finding the right kind of liquids that can provide the altering zooms across a wide range.

Samsung is already using liquid lenses in its cell phone cameras. Currently, these lenses are finding more use in small digital photographic devices. However, if this lens theory is physically implemented in mainstream photography, the cost benefit and commercial profitability looks very lucrative.

Read more below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in optics, photography | Leave a Comment »

Face Recognition in everyday use digital cameras – and more

Posted by evolvingwheel on July 14, 2007

During the early part of 2007, several affordable digital cameras from major manufacturers came out with face detection capability. Canon’s Face Detection Technology and Fuji’s Image Intelligence technology are the two most visible technologies in that paradigm. The basic technology behind the concept is an advanced algorithm that parses the scene on the LCD to detect a human face based on features like eyes, separation between eyes, nose, lips, etc. The algorithm operates on vector based calculations across the edges. The process detects rectangular areas on the scene and can measure as much as 10 such faces in area. These cameras have special chips that continuously scan attributes across the scene and detect and adjust according to the movements of such faces. I could find one such good algorithm on the web too.

I believe that this technology is just the beginning of a more powerful utility in the coming years. Face detection will eventually give way to face identification. Newer and efficient algorithms will be able to highlight and memorize patterns on the scene and tag memos to those faces. Example – I can take a picture and tag one of the faces as my daughter or wife. With time, as more pictures of those individuals get added and the same tags get attached, an artificial intelligent algorithm will be able to evolve and detect a spectrum of pattern of the same human being. This information will help to direct the camera’s lens intelligently to a person chosen by the user.

Google knows about this and thus trying to create several applications that will be able to search through pictures across the web with attributes attached to them. It will be a whole new world of facial identification on the fly. The next phase will be detecting mobile human characters in video cameras and processing that information for intelligent decision making. A burglar trying to cross the fence – an activity that will be identified by a camera as an inappropriate action!

A new world of picture and video search ahead 🙂

Picture: Courtesy Fuji Film

Posted in Innovation, Media, optics | Leave a Comment »

Let there be vision – And there were Retinal Implants

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 28, 2007

People who turned blind from retinal degeneration have got a recent improvement in their ability to see. An improvement in the implants have allowed scientists to embed four times more electrodes in the chap implant from before – and thus a 4-fold increase in resolution. The device, developed by Mark Humayun and his colleagues at USC consists of an array of hair thin electrodes in a tiny chip that is implanted in the retina. The scientific breakthrough has been with stacking the large number of electrodes in the tiny chip bed.

There are few important technological aspects of this development. One is the wireless transmission of the visual data to the chip after the video is processed by an instrumentation clipped to the belt on the waist. The electrical impulse is then transmitted to the electrodes that send electrical stimulus to the retinal cells. However, the hurdle is not just with the packing of thousands of electrodes but making the impulse work identical to the effect of light on the retina. How do they do that? May be they will soon find ways to tweak electrical signals that may trigger stimulations on retinal cells similar to that of light. Guess more research needs to be done on the behavior of the retinal cells, their properties, and their behavior. What type of cellular protiens are located over there and how do they behave to light?

Then comes the packing of electrodes. Nano electrodes may be. How do they stack them though? I have to do a bit more research on the video processing side too. Can something be done on the algorithm side? If more information can be sent by using optimized processing algorithm. Read the article [here].

Posted in Innovation, Medicine, micron, nanotechnology, optics, robots | Leave a Comment »

LED to replace Fluorescent lights? Is this a begining of the end?

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 12, 2007

Raleigh, N.C. is trying to replace a part of their fluorescent public lighting with light emitting diode based lights. I was reading the article and thinking about the facts. Approximately 22% of the electricity consumed in U.S. goes towards lighting. I am not sure how the following facts can translate to realistic implementation soon, but the numbers are outrageous: LEDs can last 75,000 hours or longer and consume far less power than standard incandescent bulbs. Only about 5 percent of the energy that goes into conventional bulbs actually turns into light; the rest gets dissipated as heat. If 25 percent of the light-bulbs in the United States were converted to LEDs putting out 150 lumen (a measure of light output) per watt–higher than the most current models–the country as a whole could save $115 billion in utility costs cumulatively by 2025, according to University of California Santa Barbara professor Stephen DenBaars.

Product ImageNow, if that’s the case, then the utility expenditure in putting up fluorescent lamps, powering them, and maintaining them will reduce drastically. The immediate question that comes to me is if the LEDs last for upto 75,000 hours, then where will go the light bulb industry? Basic demand-and-supply. Where’s the demand for the lights now? If the fixtures last for 5 years in public areas and residential homes (eventually), what kinds of industrial players will evolve? What will be the displacement of that area of the business? Obviously the LED will not be installed with a single Big-Bang.. so we shouldn’t worry that all the bulbs will go out together.. but still, the demand factor will shift. Now, once the LED is there (down the road), how do the manufacturers diversify their product to place it in any type of perpetual revenue generator model?

I like to think about this becuase the pattern is applicable to other industries, products, and services as well! Its more like what if the ink cartridges of a printer went out only after 100 million prints? Where will Epson and HP make money from?[Read The Article]

Posted in Environment, Innovation, investment, optics | 1 Comment »

Will InPhase’s holographic storage fly?

Posted by evolvingwheel on January 18, 2007

Attention grabber: An IEEE Spectrum article on holographic storage published in Jan 2007 issue link to article. Will InPhase fly with its path-breaking technology of next generation data-storage? What are possible market segments and feasibility factors associated with the acceptance of the concept across the storage industry

As I read through the article, the numbers just looked awfully mouth watering. The 5.31 inch storage drive will be able to store 300 GB of data which will eventually scale above 1 TB. The data transfer rates could be in the range of 10s to 100s of Mbytes/second. Wow! That just opens the lockgates of storage capabilities. Now the immediate question arises if the technology will be accepted by the market in different levels both vertically and laterally. I am not yet aware of the performance during stress tests in different possible scenarios. May be the big guns from Bell Labs have run the concept through all possible technological constraints and limitations. I went to InPhase’s website and looked at their contribution to the already existing holographic imaging technology. They invented new multiplexing methods. It appears that with the advent of high density media storage and optical utilities (DVD players, Blue-Ray Discs, digital cameras) commercially over the last decade, the earlier bottlenecks should be gone. Now the question is how fast will their product penetrate the market? How long will this product take to wipe out the flash drive market?

Storage is the keyword nowadays. Media storage is competing with the conventional computing data storage market. iPODS, DVDs, DVR boxes are current. In the near horizon are the prospects of real time movie downloads from big banners to home media centers. If the company has a good marketing strategy supported by a program of fast implementation of the technology to mass consumer (individual shoppers) platform then the limits are boundless. The target blocks could be anywhere from rocket science (NASA, DOD) to average music lovers. It now depends on the management to focus on a solid delivery channel, continued funding, competitive marketing, continuous innovation, cheaper manufacturing cost and fast assembly line, and ergonomics of the device. I personally feel that if taken in the right direction, this product should cover a lot of distance.

Cons: Other market giants might follow through. However, the patented technology might trickle legal issues with other competitors who will try to come up with their versions of the recording medium and multiplexing? We have to observe how InPhase tackles these questions. Strategic partnership will be a key component.

Footnote: I was reading somewhere earlier that cable companies in upscale markets or big cities might create big data (media) hubs in front of the last mile to push HD VODs to individual home fast. Holographic media storage will then come real handy…….

Posted in hardware, Innovation, optics | 1 Comment »