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Ultra-Small Projectors for Ultra-Interesting Use Cases

By: Richard Mitchell

One of the many joys of being a Digital Media Engineer with the Office of Information Technology is obtaining and evaluating AV equipment on behalf of a wide range of groups at Duke University. When asked to research small projectors for an upcoming Library art installation, I jumped at the chance to brush up on that segment. Small projectors have many names, (pocket projector, mobile projector, pico projector, etc.), but they are usually defined as having a small form factor, somewhat limited emitted light (lumens) and are designed to be very flexible in how they can be deployed.

The use cases are as varied as the models of ultra-small projectors available, but it seems most people use this segment of projectors for ultra-mobile sales and educational presentations. In our case, we were exploring an artistic deployment. Our goal was to simulate the look and feel of sunlight flowing through the leaves of a forest, as part of the art installation. After the testing the device in a number of scenarios, we had the following takeaways.

Key Takeaways:

  • The hardware manufacturers (more realistically, their marketing teams) have a “fluid” use of lumens. Some projectors indicate 200+ lumens and others have as few as 50 lumens. But, when placing the two projectors next to one another, they look surprisingly similar in overall output. So, much to the frustration of AV technicians, not all lumens are created equal.
  • Feature fatigue, with regards to these ultra-small projectors, is real. Some of these projectors have a simple HDMI input, but others include built-in media players, batteries for untethered projection, screencasting capabilities, etc. While this may sound like a feature, it’s important to note that you may be paying for technology you may not use, at the cost of additional brightness.
  • Using an ultra-portable projector will give you a crash course on the Inverse Square Law. An example of this is, at 1 meter, you may be receiving 100% brightness from your small projector, at 2 meters you received 25% brightness, and at 3 meters you receive 11%, and by the 4th meter, you are down to 6% brightness. The moral of this story is, a projector that looks very acceptable at 2 meters may be unusable at 4 meters.
  • Due to their small form factor, these projectors can be mounted in a range of unique positions, less suitable for larger projectors, lending to their use in art installations.

After the testing at the library, we decided to keep one of the small projectors for further testing. We kept the Amaz­Play Mobile Pico Projector is a was battery powered, bright enough for our needs, and seemed to have media services that we may use in the future.


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