Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Virtual Flat Screens: Coming Soon to a Corner near You!

It seems that in this day and age, a day does not pass without hearing about flat screen/plasma/LCD TVs, home cinema systems or flat panel monitors. I shouldn’t grumble about these things after all it is the 21st century (I’m just jealous ‘cos I haven’t got £2000 to blow on a Telly). As you are undoubtedly aware, an alternative to the slim line marvels of the digital age is to get a projector, like the ones used in seminars. These projectors allow you to bump your screen up to colossal sizes, depending on the size of the screen or wall your projecting on to. Herein lies the problem you see: most of us do not have 20 square foot of smooth white wall in our living rooms.

Luckily for us, in the not too distant future perfectly flat walls will no longer be a requirement for projector owners. The University of North Carolina, funded by DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Project Agency) have filed a patent for a projection system that will work on many surfaces.

You see the problem with projectors is, if you point them at an uneven surface, such as the corner of the room, the image displayed will be distorted and unrecognisably skewed. This new system claims to be able to adjust itself to cancel out any distortion, even if you’re projecting onto corners!

The system works by projecting a geometric pattern within the projection that is barely visible to the human eye. A camera built into the projector picks up this pattern. Using the feedback from the pattern, software inside the projector pre-distorts the projection in accordance to the shape of your wall (or corner, door, whatever), and hey presto! You have a perfectly even picture projected onto a perfectly uneven surface. Apparently it only takes a one off 15 second set up procedure to get going, and the system can also fine-tune itself on the fly (e.g. if someone walks in the way of the movie).

Since this project is funded by DARPA, it may be sometime before the technology makes its way onto the home entertainment market. Anyway if your want to read the original patent, you can do so here.

Before I go, I just thought I’d say a big hello to anyone arriving here from the blue fish network.

So, until next time: Stay Casual.