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Tue 16 Dec 2008 10:13 AM

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Towards Portable Computing

Many of us have seen that Star Wars film where the robot R2D2 beams out a hologram of Princess Leia begging Obi Wan for help. Believe it or not, this idea of portable display could spell the end of the computer screen as we currently know it…

The CNN ‘hologram’ incident (where Wolf Blitzer hosted a television show in which one of his interviewees appeared on his show as a ‘hologram’) became one of the more memorable moments in broadcast journalism in 2008. Despite being laughed at by some and lauded by others, the infamous ‘hologram’ has created a heightened awareness around portable display technology.

BBC Click, BBC’s technology television programme, recently featured new display technologies such as virtual images, projectors and e-readers; and one interesting feature that arose out of the show was the projector technology.

The show put across the argument that because computers are getting smaller - to the point where they will eventually be the size of a mobile phone - it would make sense to benefit from the portability of this development by using a portable projector as a computer screen.

If more people eventually catch on to the projector concept, it could result in true computer portability. We could end up carrying our computers in our pockets and use the back of a bus seat or wall as our computer screens.

Moreover, small handheld projectors are not new technology at all. A company called Optoma has what it calls the Pico, a pocket-sized projector that runs on batteries and that can project images and videos from a variety of sources such as the iPhone, iPod and DVD players. The Pico has a 480x320px resolution, with a maximum screen size of 65 inches at 8.5 feet. The battery lasts for 90 minutes and can be recharged through USB or with its own power cord. The device itself weighs 115g.

Apart from the portable projectors and virtual images, e-readers could also become alternative replacements to our computer screens. The Amazon Kindle, which was launched in November 2007, has a screen that is 3.6 inches × 4.8 inches, a resolution of 600x800 pixels and features a QWERTY keyboard. The device is primarily used for reading books and newspapers in digital format, but one can also use it to surf Wikipedia via a wireless connection.

Amazon does not sell the Kindle outside the United States, but, on the Kindle’s release day, the Kindle sold out in five and a half hours and the device remained out of stock until late April 2008.

The popularity of this product in the US points to how the demand for smaller and more portable screens is definitely out there. It seems that the dawn of portable computing is only truly upon us now…

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