THOSE TWIRLING GLITTER balls hanging over disco dance floors may soon have a high-tech counterpart. Advanced Laser Technologies Inc. in Moorpark, Calif., is developing a display for computers and televisions that uses laser beams bouncing off the 36 sides of a small, spinning polygon. A prototype of the Thinline display is monochrome and 41/2 inches thick with VGA-quality resolution, but inventor and ALT shareholder Donald C. Conemac says it's possible to make a full-color version that's 1 inch thick, with lenses that narrow the laser spot to give resolution superior to anything achievable with liquid-crystal displays or cathode ray tubes. ALT hopes to use the core technology in other products, including a device that could compress video images 300 to 1.
Those are huge claims, but Advanced Laser's patented approach seems promising. The polygon's facets are tilted so that each one directs light to a different stripe on the screen. As the polygon spins, each part of the screen is lit up. A controller tells the laser when to fire, while electrical pulses delivered to a pair of crystals deflect the laser beams sideways and up and down. An executive at one large potential customer, who declined to be identified, says Advanced Laser has solved problems that stumped other companies that experimented with laser displays: "There's a lot that's not in the patent, I guarantee you," he says.