Pico Projector to Ship Next Month

The Optoma Pico projector is designed to be a companion to personal media players.

Look at this picture. Yes, the device on the right is an iPod, and you can store photos and video on it which you can then watch on the little LCD screen. But what if you want to show the content to someone else, or a couple of people? Do you all crowd around and peer at the little screen?

That’s what the box on the left is all about. As you can see, it’s about the same size as the iPod (though a bit thicker). What is it? It’s the new Pico PK-101 projector from Optoma, which weighs a mere four ounces; that’s just a quarter of a pound. And according to an announcement by the company on Tuesday, you’ll be able to buy one at Amazon or Best Buy starting on December 15th.

It’s not high definition — it’s just 480 by 320 resolution — but it uses a DLP micromirror imager and solid-state LED lighting to project an image on just about any flat surface, from a sheet of notebook paper to a wall. It doesn’t put out a lot of light, so you’ll need to use it in relatively dim lighting, especially if you want to create a large image. But if you turn out the lights, you should be able to comfortably watch images the size of a big screen.

The list price is going to be $399. It remains to be seen whether this is going to be the Next Big Thing or the Next Big Bust. I’m betting that it will be a popular device, especially for business. A smartphone and a white sheet of paper — or the back of the menu — are all you need to make a PowerPoint pitch right at the table during lunch. The personal size and battery power will likely make it popular with the YouTube obsessed crowd, so they can share their favorite clips with friends whenever and wherever they want.