Smartphone users may soon be able to project small, fiddly displays onto walls and tables to make devices easier to use.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing a mini projector which promises to boost smartphone displays. For example, using the projector, users would be able to show off smartphone snaps by projecting them onto a coffee table. They could also project texts or emails for easier reading.

Users could even operate the smartphone by touching the screen as normal or by dragging and tapping the projection. The researchers say that even if the beams hit the surface at a diagonal angle, the projection would still be crisp, not blurred.

Marcel Sieler, a scientist at IOF, is quoted by Product Design & Development as saying, “Our projector consists of hundreds of tiny microprojectors in an array, each of which generates a complete image. This technology, known as 'array projection‘, is modelled on nature – on the compound eye found in some insects – and with it for the first time we can create very thin and bright LED projection systems with tremendous imaging properties.”

The researchers say it could be another three years before the technology hits the consumer market.