Ostendo is working on a Hologram chip for smartphones

by: Robert TriggsJune 3, 2014
Help me Obi Wan

Welcome, to the world of tomorrow. Brace for impact! Set faces to stunned.

Ok I’ll stop, but the futuristic world of cheesy lines and sci-fi gadgets is not as far away as you might think. Ostendo Technologies Inc, a display technology company based in California, is determined to bring us one step further into the future with its portable holographic technology.

The 115 employee strong company has been working on its hologram project for the past nine years, and has managed to scale down its projector technology into a tiny chipset that’s small enough to fit into a smartphone. The company has named its device the Quantum Photonic Imager, which certainly has the right sci-fi ring to it.

hologram chip for smartphones

Before we get ahead of ourselves though, Ostendo’s first generation technology will only be designed to project 2D images and videos. However, Ostendo has already demonstrated that an array of its projectors can be used to produce a holographic image, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Ostendo’s chip apparently packs in an impressive 5,000 dots per inch, and can project images up to 48 inches diagonally across. With a lens attached, the size of the module is about 0.5 cubic centimetres, which is roughly the size of a small smartphone camera module. The company expects the first 2D projector unit to be in the hands of consumers before the summer of 2015, and it will only cost around $30 per chip.

Ok, but we have seen projectors in smartphones before, so let’s move on to the interesting part – 3D.


Although I haven’t seen a demonstration myself, Ostendo has shown off a working 3D prototype to The Wall Street Journal in a recent test. A collection of six chips were laid together, which then beamed out a 3D image of a green die spinning slowly in the air. According to the WSJ, the image and motion appeared consistent regardless of which angle the viewer looked from.

Unfortunately, at this moment it is not clear how such a setup would scale down into a mobile product, and Dr El-Ghoroury, who works on the project, said that the company still needs to improve the final product with an even higher resolution output. Even so, Ostendo expects to begin manufacturing its second version of the chip, with full 3D capabilities, in the second half of 2015, which really isn’t that far away.

Of course, we will need some actual 3D content, 3D calling capabilities, and a whole range of other complementary technologies before this could become really useful for smartphones. Still, it’s an exciting prospect that we could soon be trying out for ourselves.

  • MasterMuffin

    Soon we can finally do video calls the Star Wars way! Technology advances, so I don’t find it impossible to see a phablet in a few years with six projectors producing a 3D image of the one you’re calling to. The 3D image would be taken like in Google’s project Tango

  • Peter Bognar

    This is the most ideal thing for an Project Ara module that anyone can dream of

  • WestFiasco

    Very interesting.

  • Cool find! It reminds me to think that we are still in the early stages of development, technologically speaking.

  • Jeff Kang

    >The company expects the first 2D projector unit to be in the hands of consumers before the summer of 2015

    2-D projections might be useful right now.

    There is a device called Haptix that transforms any flat surface into a 3-D multitouch surface, and they completed their KickStarter campaign last fall. It’s kind of like the Leap Motion, but it doesn’t involve as many air gestures. It’s for interacting with a touch UI without having to lift your arms, and touch a vertical touchscreen. Haptix doesn’t project anything, so a 2-D projection on the surface that a Haptix is operating on could help refresh the user as to where to press.

    Haptix is going to start shipping in the next few months, and they might start cutting into Leap Motion’s marketshare. Leap Motion needs to hurry up, and bring “Table Mode”, where you can use any surface as a touch interface. Leap Motion has said that Table Mode is on the roadmap, but that’s it. Doing air gestures all day is not ergonomically friendly.

    Here’s a video of a hacked-together set-up to get Table Mode with Leap Motion. The user plays Reflex.te, a reaction game that’s usually meant for the mouse: youtube/com/watch?v=cgGkwGJcB1c. The user is using transparent glass so that the Leap Motion can continue to look up. On the other hand, Haptix looks down onto a surface.

    However, when the 3-D holograms come, maybe then can the air gestures of Leap Motion be fully utilized.

    >This is the most ideal thing for a Project Ara module that anyone can dream of

    Maybe soon, Leap Motion or Haptix can be reduced into a Project Ara module. (Actually, I think Google’s Project Tango device (portable Kinect) might do this in the future. Tango has the Movidius chip: “New applications include post-capture refocusing, high quality zoom, augmented reality simulation, gaze or gesture-based user interfaces”).

  • ec20flat
  • Tony

    Anyone know what the 3D setup is projecting onto? I thought a 3D image needed some type of substrate to project onto. You can’t just tell a beam of light to stop at a certain point on the z-axis.

    I’ve seen a setup years ago that used a steam of compressed air as substrate. I’m wondering how this one works.

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  • Rob

    I found a video of their 3d tech in action online. It looks pretty amazing. The video is pretty short, but gives a glimpse into what they are trying to achieve.


  • tonhogg

    This sounds cool, but is it going to turn out like other things we have heard about in the past. You read an article on some new technology, then 5 years later you’re like “Oh I just thought of that, whatever happened to it? I’ve heard nothing since.”