Cell phone projectors by 2010?

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If Texas Instruments gets its way, the next generation of cell phones could be going a little, well, R2D2.

No, they won't be getting electric-shock self-defense mechanisms or Death Star interface ports. But they could be sporting built-in projectors.

Texas Instruments on Monday unveiled the next generation of its Pico miniature projector chip, which the company says is 20 percent smaller, but puts out twice the image resolution and sips less power than its predecessor.

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Impressive. But more intriguing was this tidbit from Reuters:

"[Miniature projector technology has] been requested of us by mobile phone companies and consumer electronics companies all over the world," said Frank Moizio, emerging business manager for TI's Digital Light Projection (DLP) unit, who added that pico-projectors may be even more popular than cell phone cameras, which grew from 4 million shipments in 2001 to more than 700 million in 2007. "We see no reason for this not to follow a path similar to the camera phone," he said.

What would a world where everyone has a projector in their pocket look like?

New York Times tech columnist David Pogue reviewed a standalone micro projector with one of TI's earlier miniature DLP chips late last year and was pleased with the results, remarking that it was great for throwing a three-foot image on a plane's ceiling, baffling everyone around him.

Texas Instruments envisions miniature projectors finding a place in business – for informally projecting presentations during meals – and among friends for sharing videos. But how long before some prankster takes one of these to the theater and beams a pirated version of the latest movie onto the screen during the previews? And we thought ring tones and laser pointers were obnoxious.

(And yes, nerds, I know that R2 was capable of projecting holograms, something these phones won't do just yet – for that we'll just have to stick with CNN, for now.)

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