Projection systems have come a long way since their introduction to the corporate world in the 1950s. The idea of a projection system actually evolved from the earlier idea of a “magic lantern,” a concept that was born in Europe between the mid 1500s and the late 1600s. The lantern contained slides on the inside of the glass, and the light from the lantern projected this image, very crudely it has to be said, onto the wall. Some even had built in mechanical features, such as pulleys and winches, that allowed for animations to be seen.
The early magic lanterns may seem like a novelty when viewed from a 21st century perspective, but they represented a very real breakthrough in technology at the time, and one which lead to the evolution of the projection systems that are on the market today. Seems crazy when you consider that recent advances have made it possible to have a projection system within a mobile phone.
One of the earliest forms of projection system was the opaque projectors, used primarily in the 60s, but continuing to develop up until modern day. The opaque projectors work by shining a very bright light onto the material, and directing the reflected light through the projection lens. These projection systems do not require that material is converted to another format; printed materials or small objects can be placed directly in the projector. For example, if you were projecting a book then you would open the page and place it face down on the inside of the projector, which would then project the image onto a wall. The limitations of this are immediately obvious.
Running alongside the production of opaque projectors were slide projectors, which also rose to success in the 50s, and are still made today, albeit with a vastly improved quality. In this case the material to be presented is transferred to a slide, eliminating the restrictions of the opaque projector. Users could project any material that they could transfer to film. The results are a much more versatile device, though the costs and complexities of creating slides provides the balanced drawback.
Overhead projectors were first used in WWII for training, but became commercially viable and well used by businesses and schools in the late 50s and 60s. They work in a similar way to slide projectors, but the material is converted to a transparency ready for projection. Many schools used these up until recently, and they are still widely used, but are gradually being replaced with newer technology.
Digital Projection Panels-
This advance in technology represented the first step towards a digital revolution for projection systems. The projection panel had an LCD display and allowed light to pass through it. When hooked up to a computer the projection panels could display the material on the screen, which could then be projected by an overhead system, effectively making it a giant interactive monitor perfect for presentations.
Finalising the inevitable switch to digital projection, the early 90s saw the rise of the computer projector, which effectively combined the overhead and digital panels into one device. The computer projectors could project material straight from a computer, making them the ultimate in interactive presentation devices. They started out big, bulky, and with low quality projection, but continue to develop and improve up until this day. Now they are relatively inexpensive and very high quality.
Along with computer projectors came the digital video projector, a device that allows users to play TV or DVD through a projector, likely onto a huge projector screen or wall. They can be used for business but are more commonly used for pleasure. The highest quality and entertainment specific video projectors are known as home theatre projectors, and aim to give a cinema quality experience. Since their start in the early 90s they have seen a rapid development in image quality and reduction in price.
Technology tends to get better, cheaper, and smaller. That is the general trend, and projection systems are no different. In 2005 Mitsubishi introduced the first pocket sized projector system, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Improvements are being made to the technology, and in the future it is possible that mobile phones, toys, and computers, might feature these miniature projection systems.
Nowadays projection systems can be wireless and highly interactive. Steve, expert in projection technology at Videonations, explains that “the future of the technology will be even more interactive. Improved connectivity will mean super-fast connectivity between meeting participants, even when they are contributing from a remote location. Presentations are fast become collaborations.”
The journey to where the technology is now has been one of constant evolution. It has both driven corporate behaviour, and in turn been fuelled by business consumer needs.