HP Lab University 2007: HP demos Pluribus projection brainchild

HP used this week's HP Lab University in Lisbon to showcase some of the fruits of its research, with an innovative projection framework taking its turn in the spotlight this morning.

The project, code-named Pluribus, combines multiple low-cost projectors to give large businesses, home entertainment enthusiasts and anyone in between high quality output without the massive costs of one large machine.

"Pluribus is about combining multiple projectors to make one big projector. It's part of the transformation from static content to dynamic content," said Niranjan Damera-Venkata, one of the brain's behind the technology.

"We have a vision of the future where displays are omnipresent. The problem with realising visions like that is cinema-grade projectors are very expensive which prevents us from having an IMAX-quality image not just at home but everywhere else too. So how do we scale? One approach is to use multiple low-cost projectors and combine them."

Damera-Venkata added: "Clustered computing replaced supercomputing. People took standard components and hooked them together. By themselves [those components] were not very capable but when hooked together they do the job. RAID also works on the same principle. That's the analogy we'd like to use for this."

Pluribus works by using a camera, automatic calibration and complex mathematical algorithms so that the projectors can work as one regardless of their individual configurations, makes or models.

Images can then be displayed in a tiled format by joining the multiple projection displays together as one or in a superimposed format with images laid on top of one another, or as a combination of the two. Resolution and brightness quality remain high and if one projector fails it doesn't adversely affect viewing. Likewise, people can walk in front of the projectors without creating an annoyingly-large shadow on the display.

Damera-Venkata and fellow Pluribus researcher Nelson Chang demonstrated the merits of the technology, which is controlled by a PC, by combining six projectors together to display images and offer delegates a chance to experience what interactive gaming is like using this format.

They optimised the set-up prior to delegates arriving, but they assured attendees that it took just 10 minutes to do as opposed to the six hours it would have taken to do the same job manually.

HP isn't suggesting that it has invented the concept of clustering projectors together, but its approach to how to do so successfully is where the innovation lies.

"Of course people have tried this," admitted Damera-Venkata, as he detailed how HP has tried to overcome the pitfalls encountered by others such as display differences between projectors impacting on the visual seamlessness and lack of robustness and efficiency.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.