Syndiant updates: interview with their CTO, Karl Guttag

Karl Guttag, Syndiants CTO photoSyndiant seems to be doing good lately - in the past few weeks, we heard that the new pico-projectors from Aiptek, Philips and 3M all use their LCoS modules. Karl Guttag (Syndiant's CTO) kindly agreed to answer a few questions we had (this is a follow up to the interviews we did with Karl back in July 2009 and May 2010).

Q: Hi Karl, and thanks again for your time. Can you update us on your current offering? What kind of VueG8 panels are available today?

SYL2010    854x800 pixels with a 0.21" diagonal
SYL2030    854x480 pixels with a 0.21" diagonal
SYL2043    800x600 pixels with a 0.37" diagonal
SYL2061    024x600 pixels with a 0.44" diagonal

Syndiant SYL2061Syndiant SYL2061

Please see our website for any updates as they occur.

Q: You have recently launched a pico-projector competition, calling everyone to find creative usages for pico-projectors. Can you share some of your own use cases? How is the response to the contest so far?

I'd like to hold back on our ideas until the contest is over and instead try to help stimulate you readers with how we see the pico projector engine itself changing over time. With the improvements in LEDs and lasers we see pico projectors as becoming much more efficient and lower in cost. In a few years we should have optical engines that are about 3cc (cubic centimeters), less than 6mm thick and with HD resolutions (720P and 1080P) that produce greater than 20 lumens per Watt of power. The projectors can be very short throw, meaning that the projector can be very close to the surface it is projecting on and yet project a big image.

Additionally, people should think in terms of interfaces that will go with the projectors to make interesting products. As the Intel Oasis and the Xbox Kinect interfaces are demonstrating, cameras are becoming visual input devices that will work in conjunction with display devices.

We really didn't know what to expect so in terms of the number of responses and have had a number but we love to some more. As you might expect there are some very conventional idea and a few off the wall ideas. I would like to remind your readers that the contest ends December 15th with the winner announced at CES 2011.

Q: In the past few weeks you released some good news - announcing that your panels are being used in new projectors by Aiptek, Philips and 3M. Are we to expect more such news? Is the MPro-180 and Aiptek V50 also using your panels?

You should be expecting more announcements in and around the time of CES but I can't comment on anything that is not already announced.

PicoPix PPX-1020PicoPix PPX-1020

Q: Are there any other companies that offer SVGA (800x600) panels?

Yes, there are other companies with SVGA panels and our panels were picked over them. My understanding one of the reasons for picking our panels was our superior image quality.

Q: When can we expect projectors based on your SYL2061 (1024x600) panel? Is the Foryou PE-620 module available?

I can't comment on any specific product but there are a number of designs going on with the SYL2061 and you should see announcements in early 2011.

Q: Back in June you said you expect to sample HD modules in 2010 (and production to start in 2011). Is that still on track?

Supporting the current customers caused some delays in the HD microdisplay development but we are making good progress on them. Sorry I can't go into more detail as this time for competitive reasons.

Q: One of the most interesting usages of pico-projector is touch displays using a camera. Are you working towards such combinations, or will you focus on projector panels only?

I very much agree about the interesting uses of visual/camera input and we have talked with a number of partner companies about this. Syndiant remains focused on the LCOS microdisplays and there are ways that we can help make it easier for visual input but we will work with our partner companies to provide a complete solution.

Q: You have shown a 3D-projector demo using two projectors 'taped' together. Are you doing any research toward 3D solutions?

The tape-together 3D demo turned out to be a big hit and helped stimulated some interesting developments. We are seeing customer/partner developments for both tying two projectors together and for purpose-built 3D projectors. The purpose built 3D projectors use two of our microdisplays, one for each eye, and single projection lens. Both methods support using inexpensive passive glasses.

Syndiant pico-projector duo for 3D photo

Q: Where do you see the Pico-Projector market in 3-5 years? Has the past year made you more optimistic or pessimistic?

I have been in the industry for over 30 years and I have seen a number of new product development cycles including the early video games (early on, I had a video chip in a number of the early video games and home computers). The pico projector market is as hot a market as I have ever seen at this stage. There is always some chaos at the beginning as all the components come together, but the overall market I expect to be almost unimaginably big, likely in the hundreds of millions of units per year. As the volumes grow, the cost of pico projectors is going to drop which in turn will fuel more growth.

There is an old saying that that people usually "over estimate the short term impact of technology and underestimate the long term impact" which certainly applies in this case. It takes time for the whole infrastructure to become established and people become impatient while a bunch of hard work is being done to go from technology demonstrations to high volume products. In the case of pico projectors, the market as a whole grew about 300% from 2009 to 2010 in a very down economy and is likely to grow at an even faster rate for the next several years; that's very heady growth by almost any measure.

Perhaps one of the biggest technical catalyst to my optimism has been the progress on direct green and blue lasers by multiple companies. Lasers are not just a replacement for LEDs - lasers will let us build pico projectors with LCOS microdisplays that are smaller in size while supporting HD resolutions; smaller, less expensive and more efficient optics, with higher brightness, while at the same time are focus free. Laser also make short throw optics much easier which opens up new applications for pico projectors. I believe that Syndiant is in the best position with our small pixel VueG8 technology to take full advantage of lasers as they become affordable.

While our SYL2010 was used in the first consumer laser projector, the lasers are still a bit expensive for high volumes; the big wave in lasers is yet to come. Being realistic, laser projectors are still a few years away from being cost effective for most high volume uses, but rest assured that Syndiant and our partners are going to be ready for lasers. In the mean time, we still see some phenomenal growth for pico projectors with LEDs while lasers are being perfected.

Thanks Karl, for this interview. Just to be fair, I have to disclose that Syndiant is an advertiser here on PicoProjector-info...

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