You're looking at a micro-projector, a credit card-sized device with a projector head of 1 cm3, and it could change the way we play and share our portable games.

Developed by Lemoptix, a spin-off of EPFL, working with the Maher Kayal Laboratory, this micro-projector isn't simply a concept; it's a real product, capable of projecting an image the size of a 15 inch screen at a minimum distance of 50 centimeters.

The device utilizes micro electro-mechanical systems to function. Explains EPFL research director Maher Kayal, "This micro-projector functions using tiny mirrors of less than a millimeter's thickness. Positioned on a silicon (wafer) disc, they reflect red, blue and green laser beams." It's capable of scanning a surface at 20,000 times a second, and most recently was able to project a generate a color image in VGA.

This isn't the sort of technology we'll need to wait a decade to see integrated into our electronics either. Lemoptix technical director Nicolas Abelé says the device's components can be "manufactured in thousands, even tens of thousands, at low cost."

Plans are already in place to produce the device for industrial applications by the end of 2011, with consumer electronics getting their shot at it in 2012.

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Potential uses include beaming information generally contained in a dashboard directly onto the windshield of a car, or projecting medical information directly onto a patient undergoing surgery, but with a size profile that makes it easy to integrate into mobile phones and portable computers, the potential gaming applications can't be ignored.

Imagine a portable gaming device without a traditional screen using the projector to allow you to play your games wherever you please. Or integrating a camera with the projector to bring augmented reality games to an entirely new level, projecting the game itself into reality, instead of the other way around. Hell, you could create a gaming helmet with a transparent visor you could project first-person shooter HUDs onto.

With Lemoptix looking into creating an interactive version of the projector that would allow users to manipulate the screen using their hands, the micro-projector looks like a device that's definitely going to have a hand in the future of gaming.

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Researchers develop tiny projector [Physorg.com]