Smartphone projector display ready for market

August 07, 2012 // By Peter Clarke
Following a two-year joint development of smartphone projection display with start-up bTendo Ltd. (Kfar Saba, Israel), STMicroelectronics NV has acquired the intellectual property and has hired most of the staff of the company.

ST (Geneva, Switzerland) said the technology is ready for integration into next-generation smartphones, digital cameras and laptops and that samples are now in the hands of potential customers.

ST did not disclose how much it has paid for the bTendo assets but it is reported to be a few million dollars. ST said it has made the move to accelerate the deployment of the display. ST did not say how soon bTendo picoprojectors could start appearing in consumer products but the expectation is 2013.

The joint development has been working on combining bTendo's Scanning Laser Projection engine with ST's MEMS, video processing and chip-making expertise. It has produced evaluation samples that ST describes as being "tiny" and "low power."

The scanning laser projection engine produces a focus-free high-resolution output that will allow users to display their video, pictures and presentations on to nearby surfaces. The module measures less than 1.7 cubic centimeters and is less than 5 millimeters high allowing it to be integrated into consumer electronics equipment that is thin.

Thinness is considered a highly desirable property in smartphones and laptops, although it is challenging for equipment designers and builders.

"As a pioneer and the industry's leading innovator in MEMS, we're making picoprojectors small, power-friendly, and convenient enough to suit smartphones, digital cameras and laptops," said Benedetto Vigna, general manager of ST’s Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group, in a statement.

Market research firm Pacific Media Associates has forecasted that the market for picoprojectors will reach 58 million units in 2015, up from about 3 million units shipped in 2011, a compound annual growth rate of more than 80 percent.

Founded in 2006, bTendo raised about $7 million in a Series A funding round from Carmel Ventures and BlueRun Ventures. The 20 engineers at Kfar Saba are expected to become an ST development center.