Are Lasers The Future of Projectors?

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As awesomely futuristic as they sound, laser projectors aren’t that much different from traditional projectors. With all projectors, something creates light, and that light is then manipulated to create the image on the screen. The only thing changes with laser projectors is what is creating the light.

In the purest form, red, green and blue lasers are “defocused” to fill an entire DLP, LCOS, or LCD chip. The lasers don’t scan the chip (or the screen). So, in fairness, “laser projector” is about as much of a misnomer as “LED TV.” Both terms refer to the of name the technology that creates the light — lasers and light-emitting diodes, respectively — not the technology that creates the image as a whole. “DLP projector” and “LCD TV” would be more accurate.

Lasers replace the UHP, Xenon, and other lamps found in current projectors. So even though that makes “laser projectors” a little less futuristic (more evolution than revolution), they’re still way cool, and offer lots of benefits.

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There are several benefits of lasers, and they’re all tied together. The first is efficiency. If you read myUltra HD Color, Part I article, you’ll remember that TVs and projector use red, green and blue light to create every color you see on the screen.

One of the most awarded benefits of laser projection technology are the focus. No need to manually set the image into focus by yourself and deal with weird walls or angles. The lasers do it all for you and it is already being applied into small projectors like AAXA’s L1 Laser Pico Projector.

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A normal projector lamp creates white light. This may seem like a good thing, but the fact is, projectors have to throw away (absorb or otherwise block) most of this light, leaving only the red, green, and blue parts. It then projects those on the screen so you can see — wait for it — white light. Mildly inefficient, that.

Lasers only create the exact colors needed, which uses less power. Here’s one way to think about it: if a UHP lamp draws 300 watts to create white light, only a portion of that is used to create red, green and blue. The rest is wasted on yellow, purple, chartreuse, etc. With a laser projector there could be three 100-watt lasers which could, in theory, each create much more light for their respective colors, given the same overall power draw. It’s not quite this simple, but that’s the basic advantage.

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There are two common questions when it comes to lasers. The first is one of safety. After all, anyone who’s played with a consumer laser knows you don’t shine them in people’s eyes.

The lasers in projectors are much more powerful. Doesn’t that mean they’re more dangerous?

Epson says safety is not an issue. “The laser passes through a phosphor/diffuser wheel. Light from the projection lens complies with the class 2 safety standard, and is in accordance with other laser projectors. There is no risk of retina damage, unless users intentionally stare into the lens directly for prolonged periods.”

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