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UK startup Light Blue Optics, which makes miniature projector systems, just raised $13 million in a funding round led by DFJ Esprit. The company’s latest product, Light Touch, turns any flat surface into a touch screen. Light Touch uses Holographic Laser Projection (HLP) to create the projected image, and it uses infrared sensors to detect motion so that the user can interact with the image.

Light Blue Optic’s main competitor is the DLP Pico projector technology from Texas Instruments. DLP uses an array of microscopic mirrors, rather than lasers, to reflect an image onto a screen. Currently DLP projectors do not contain motion sensors and therefore do not allow interaction with the image.

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Light Blue Optics claims that HLP offers other advantages such as a greater throw angle (the angle at which light leaves the projector), which means that very large images can be created in close proximity to the projector, e.g. a 10-inch or greater image from a small device standing less than 5 inches away. The projector is also smaller and uses considerably less power than alternatives. This is particularly important when embedding a projector into a mobile device.

The company will use the funding to develop its next generation of projection technologies. The current light engine is about the size of a matchbox, and this is expected to shrink to less than the size of a small USB stick in future models. The new projectors will also be more efficient, delivering three times the brightness of a typical tablet screen using only half the power. The company expects to sell the technology to equipment manufacturers who will embed it in their products.

Light Blue Optics was founded in 2004, is headquartered in Cambridge, England (with a development center in Colorado Springs) and has 50 employees. The company previously received a total of $44.5 million in funding.

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