BERLIN -- Imagine a 23-inch TV you could take in the bath, stick to your refrigerator door, or plonk on your kitchen workspace. That's the promise of the Sony Portable Short Throw Projector, which lights up any room and turns any wall or surface into a TV and a touchscreen.
A short-throw projector beams an image a short distance, unlike a conventional projector like the ones at the movies or the type you use to show off your holiday snaps. For example, a short-throw device might sit at the base of a wall and project onto the space above it, correcting the image to sort out any distortion so the image looks right to people standing in front of it. Because it isn't projecting across the room, you won't have to worry about people throwing popcorn at you because your shadow won't be cast on the wall if you walk in front of the picture.
Sony made waves earlier this year with its monster 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector, a huge bar that squats on the floor and beams an enormous, eye-scorchingly detailed 4K image on the wall. Sensors in the ceiling mean you can control the image with your hand, waving at 4K movies or swiping through photos with an airy wave of the hand.
The new portable version expands on this idea while shrinking it. It's a cube about the size of a box of tissues so it can go anywhere -- and wherever it goes it has different clever purposes.
First of all, the 23-inch image can show a TV program or movie on any surface. It's waterproof, so you can perch it on the side of the bath and watch by candlelight. Take it into the kitchen and you can project a recipe onto the countertop, putting an end to the problem of turning recipe book pages with sauce-soaked fingers. In any room, it can project a magazine or website to peruse at your leisure.
Stick the Short Throw Projector on the fridge and it beams photos, notes, drawings, and reminders onto the surface as a kind of virtual, interactive pinboard. It's connected wirelessly, so not only can you throw pictures to the wall from your phone, but people in different places can see the same thing. You could share a family noticeboard with your folks, for example, and as photos are automatically backed up from phones to projector, both homes can see the latest family snaps.
Exact specs are thin on the ground, but I saw the projector demonstrated at a mock-up of a living room at technology trade show IFA in Berlin. Even with the lights up, the projector was impressively bright when used as a pinboard or projecting onto a kitchen surface.
The Short Throw Projector was part of a demonstration of a smart home in which even the most workaday items do something clever, whether it's the lightbulbs with built-in speakers or the lampshades that project photos onto the table. They're mostly prototypes, but don't have to be the stuff of science fiction: Archos is planning to sell its own lightbulb with a speaker in it, and in its IFA press conference Sony made noises about the Short Throw Projector coming to real homes at some point.
Exact details are yet to be confirmed, but we know that it will at least be a little easier on the wallet than the monstrous 4K Ultra Projector -- Sony reckons that if it ever went on sale it would take a chunk out of your bank account in the neighbourhood of $30,000 to $40,000.