Omron prototypes fixed spatial projection displays

November 03, 2016 // By Julien Happich
At electronica, Omron Electronic Components Europe will be exhibiting three spatial projection display prototypes, demonstrating what it calls Aerial Imaging technology where fixed signs can be made to appear floating in the air.

The Spatial Projection Display (SPD) technology consists in a transparent plate in which are embedded tens of thousands of Fresnel lenses via a micro-impression process. Light guides are also patterned through the plate, guiding the light from a single LED to the Fresnel lenses where light is refracted to produce a virtual image at a distance of the plate.

The image source appears floating above the transparent panel which could, in some instances be invisibly integrated into the ceiling or into a floor slab.

"This technology is still under development and is not in production yet, but we are running a pilot project in Japan and hope to bring this technology to Europe next year" said Fabrizio Petris, Senior Business Development Manager at Omron.

A sign placed two meters high could be seen from a 0 to 35º incident view angle, with a 75º viewing angle sideways, he claims. For now the "floating range" away from the transparent plate is only a few centimetres, but the company hopes to increase free-space distance by optimising it Fresnel designs.

By using RGB LEDs, several light guides and Fresnel patterns can be intertwined across the same plate or across different transparent layers to bring full colour signs. Alternatively, multiple signs could be micro-patterned across a plate, with only one sign being lit at a time with a different LED.

Omron started working on light directivity about 20 years ago and is hoping this lightweight implementation will find its way in all sorts of signage applications for shopping malls, transport terminals and other public locations. The company has demonstrated 2D and 3D images with its SPD technology, it is also planning to adapt it to curved plexiglass panels so the displays could conform to objects with shaped surfaces. Once a master has been crafted for the micro-impression of a specific sign, production is straightforward and should guarantee high volumes replication at low cost.