Projector chip cleans up image

The Warp IC can correct the distortions caused when images are projected onto complex and uneven surfaces

Cheaper home cinema, instruments projected onto windscreens in cars and Bladerunner-style video on buildings are all closer with a new chip announced last week by Californian company Silicon Video. Called the Warp IC, it is a display processor that corrects distortion caused by projecting video onto complex surfaces or from an off-centre projector. Already used by the military for heads-up displays in fighters and night vision systems for troops, the technology has just found its first commercial application in 3M's Wall Display, a combined office projector and whiteboard.

"The chip can zoom and pan in software by selecting a segment of the input image and expanding it. It can also be used to digitally correct projection on curved surfaces and can even be programmed to adapt to changing warp requirements every output frame." said Steve Wood, vice president at Silicon Video. The chip can process in excess of 100 million pixels a second, fast enough for real-time video, and can also correct images taken through a distorting optical system, recreating the original scene.

3M's Wall Display, due for launch in early autumn, has a 60in screen driven by Texas Instruments Digital Light Processor. The projector hinges out from the top of the screen on an arm, rather than having to be placed at the other side of the room, with the Warp IC correcting for the massive geometrical distortion this causes.

Future applications will include virtual dashboards projected onto the inside of a car windscreen, regardless of curvature, domestic video projectors that can be placed anywhere in a room, security systems that take 360 degree pictures through wide-angle lenses, video advertising hoardings and three-dimensional objects such as statues painted with projected video. The chip currently costs around £60 in production quantities, expected to fall to around £20.

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