Asus Exhibits Touch-sensitive Image Projector

According to an article on Nikkei Technology, AsusTek Computer Inc (Asus) exhibited a short-focus projector capable of projecting an image that can be used for touch operation. The “Smart Projector” was showcased at Computex Taipei 2017, which is the CES equivalent tech tradeshow in Taiwan.

Asus is a company I’ve worked with and have known for a very long time. They are more known for their computer hardware and accessories. They also sell Asus branded desktops and laptops with gaming desktops only available in certain markets.

So, when I saw this article about Asus and a touch-sensitive image projector, I was curious, but cautious. This isn’t the first time reading about this type of technology. It’s actually been available for over a decade but nobody has been able to capitalize on it even though a few companies have tried.

One of the first iterations of this technology was to project a keyboard onto any surface and you can “type” using this projected keyboard. It would use lasers or other type of light projection to project the keyboard onto your table, for example, and then the infrared sensors would pick up on where your fingers are to determine which keys you are pressing.

I, myself, would not be able to use a projected keyboard. I’m one of those who can type without looking down at the keyboard and know how to center my fingers on the right keys based on small bumps or ridges on the F and J keys. From there, I easily “feel” for the other keys and type away quickly.

On a projected keyboard on a smooth surface, I would have to look down at the projected keys to type. This would actually make me type slower.

The difference between the projected keyboards and what Asus is offering is that the “Smart Projector” will be projecting the whole display. Basically, the projected image is your display screen. It’s like using the table surface as your touch screen.

As I’ve seen from previous attempts to offer products like this, it’s a gimmick and I doubt it would be a good seller. Functionally, it’s not very good in my opinion.

First, the project display will NOT have the clarity and brightness that you would get from using your device directly. The only way to even get close to the brightness and clarity of an actual display is to project this onto a smooth white surface. This is why all projector screens are white. Even then, you won’t have the high contrast and clarity that you get from an actual display.

When you project your screen images onto a surface that isn’t white or has a natural wood grain look, your picture quality degrades. If your surface is dark, it gets even worse.

One last thing, based on ergonomic safety standards, your computer displays should be at eye level. When you’re projecting your display down on the table, you’re having to look down all the time to use your computer. This isn’t ergonomically safe to use for long periods of time.

I really don’t understand the feasibility of this technology. I’ve seen the projected keyboards years ago and functionally it wasn’t very good. Now Asus is offering it by projecting the entire display, which would reduce image quality.

If the technology does not improve on anything, why even try? Display quality is reduced compared to using an actual display. Touch accuracy is reduced as you’re relying on infrared sensors.

When using a single point of projection and infrared sensors, you do not have what I consider 3d sensing. Picture this, your desktop is being projected on the table. If you were to touch the projected screen near the top of the display, part of the screen is now projected on your arm. If you need to touch multiple points on the screen and one is near the top and the other just below that, you wouldn’t be able to as the point just below your other arm is blocking the projection. So do you then touch your arm to interact with that part of the display? Doesn’t make sense, right?

If you can’t picture that, maybe this might be easier. Remember in class when they used an overhead project? If you walked in between the projector and the projector screen or wall, your body blocks the projection. You’ll see a darkened outline of your body on the projector screen or wall, right?

So, how do you interact with a projected display if your arm constantly blocks certain parts of the display while using it?

Again, this type of product is a gimmick and something to “show off”. But functionally, it’s worse in every aspect. If you want a touch display flat on the table, get a touch display and sit it flat on the table. It may not look “cool” but functionally it’s a ton better.

You can make it look cool if you cut out your table and mount the touch display into it so it’s a completely flat surface.

Reference article at Nikkei Technology

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