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Thursday, August 25, 2005

A holy grail: The camcorder-thwarting projector

Whoops - VC Tom Perkins happened to mention this week that Hewlett-Packard is working on a digital projector that would stymie anyone trying to use a camcorder to capture the images it casts on a screen. Such a projector would be a godsend for the piracy-obsessed movie studios.

Declan McCullagh of writes that "an HP spokesman confirmed that the company was working on a research project fitting that description, but declined to provide any further details."

It's a hard problem, and from what I've heard, it's still in the research stages everywhere, from Sony to HP to Cinea, a subsidiary of Dolby Labs. What's difficult about it is tinkering with the picture in such a way that you cause problems for camcorders without visibly warping it for the audience. Cinea won a grant from the U.S. government a few years back to develop a technology it calls CamJam. From the Cinea Web site:

    Cinea’s approach exploits two key elements:

    The difference between the way camcorders and the human eye perceive patterns. The eye filters out intermittent noise in an image while the camcorder records these effects. Cinea modulates light to create flicker patterns that ultimately distort camcorder recordings.

    The fast switching times of the theaters’ digital projection systems—specifically Texas Instruments’ market-leading Digital Micromirror Device (DMD). CamJam leverages the DMD architecture to project both the original content and a disruption pattern. It applies unique content-specific disruption technology that embeds and moves flickers across parts of the frame in a way that maximizes the disruption the camcorder picks up without impacting the audience.

This'll be a technology race between at least three players - and nothing I've heard indicates that HP is in the lead.


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