If there's one rule of thumb that goes along with lasers—no matter how weak they may be—it's that you should never, ever point them at your eyes. But lasers are more energy efficient and responsive than LEDs, making them better suited for the 3D scanners used to detect gestures on a game console. So Sharp has come up with a way to make compact laser diodes that won't fry a gamer's retinas.

Laser diodes already exist, but in applications where there's a risk of the light hitting someone's eyes, filters are needed to make them safe. And the addition of filters adds bulk and extra cost for a given device, so manufacturers tend to stick with LEDs.

But Sharp has successfully created the world's first infrared laser diode with a built-in safety device: a small plastic cap that looks frosted thanks to thousands of tiny particles embedded in the material that serve to scatter the light. The result is a larger, less focused beam that's diffused enough to be seen by the naked eye.


Sharp will be putting the new diodes into production starting in July. And even if they don't replace the LED diodes in the sensor bars used by the Xbox one, for example, their compact size means they could eventually be integrated into smartphones capable of detecting gestures made in the air. Or improve the scanning capabilities of a device like Google's Project Tango. [Tech-On!]

Photo by Shutter Stock/RioPatuca