HDTV Projection Tech Hits the Wall
By Brad Frischkorn
Improving image projection technology can now turn a living room wall into a veritable movie theater.
Taiwan-based Ultmost Technology Group is betting that its new CasTV device may spare families not only the cost of buying cinema tickets, but possibly even a new computer monitor.
CasTV made its public debut to an enthusiastic reception at the annual spring Hong Kong Electronics Fair in April. Billed as an ultra-short throw projector/smart TV, the breadbox-sized unit displayed a Hollywood film on an adjacent white wall with impressive HDTV clarity and brightness.
The CasTV system sports several big advantages over contemporary home A/V equipment. It can be positioned on the same spot as a TV monitor while eliminating the need to fuss with cables. It also allows for connection to set-top boxes, DVD players, camcorders, or game consoles, and can be used for direct internet streaming using an ethernet cable over the built-in Wi-Fi.
In terms of compatibility, the machine incorporates DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), Miracast, and Airplay casting programs which allows it to work with cable, satellite and telecom service providers while ensuring smooth interface with laptops, tablets and smartphones, mirroring Android and iOS devices.
"We see the CasTV as a kind of all-in-one solution for home entertainment," says Ultmost President Justine Shen, on hand at the expo to help explain the device to interested customers. "The fact that the projection system uses reflected, not direct, LED light removes a major concern about eye strain."
Owners who wish to use existing sound systems can either physically and wirelessly connect their amps and speakers to the unit.
Ultra-short throw projectors have existed for decades. But technological advances have taken them far from their low-resolution, incandescent bulb-driven roots. Using ultra wide-angle lenses or a set of convex mirrors, light is spread from DLP or LED chips, eliminating old problems such as shadow casting and hot-spot visibility while dramatically improving brightness.
In the B2B market, short-throw solutions saw sales grow to 256,000 units in the first quarter of 2016, up 8.5% on-year, with India and China leading the way in the Asia-Pacific region, according to research site Futuresource Consulting.
Meanwhile, the home-use market is trending towards more efficiently utilizing smaller spaces for entertainment, say industry watchers, an ideal condition for short-throw technology.
There is no shortage of projector makers; familiar names such as Sony, Epson, Optoma, Canon, and NEC lead the list of best-selling brands.
The problem thus far has been cost. B2B models can run well into the five-figure dollar range. For home use, Sony's highly-rated VPL-VW300ES projector sports a retail price tag of over $6,000, as does the Epson EH-LS10000 projector.
At a retail price point of under $1,000, Ultmost, which sports a long history in DVD component and image projectors, hopes to attract a new generation of customers to the CasTV. The proprietary technology should be available for direct purchase from May, says Ms. Shen, after which a succession of models is slated for rollout.
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