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Optoma Technology Projects Its Future: A Q&A With Robert Sterzing

Robert Sterzing, hired last summer as Optoma Technology’s new president/CEO, is taking the supplier of home and business projectors into new territory.

The company is broadening its product selection with new technologies for the residential and business markets and moving into completely new product categories, all with the intention of “driving innovation,” the company said. The company is also focusing on integrating its projectors with audio products from the NuForce audio brand acquired in 2014.

Here’s what Sterzing had to say about the company’s plans:

TWICE: What’s new with Optoma, and what’s in store for 2016 in the way of products and programs for the Optoma projector brand?
Since I came on board at Optoma last summer, we shifted the company’s vision to driving innovation broadly across consumer lifestyle and ProAV products with market-leading firsts. The company had recently acquired audio company NuForce, so we looked at how to integrate and expand our product line more fully across A/V. Notable products we’ve already announced this year include the first 4K UHD DLP home theater projector, an ultra-lightweight short-throw projector that crosses business and home, wireless/Wi-Fi speakers that we’ll be introducing later this year, and a virtual-reality HMD [head-mounted display], which really fits into our A/V expertise in light engines and optics. Our ultimate goal is to bring a simplified, flexible and quality A/V experience to a more mainstream market.

TWICE: In the residential market, what other features or technologies are planned for this year?
With HD 4K UHD broadcast and playback becoming more widespread, we were the first to announce a 4K UHD home entertainment projector at CES. The 4K projector, coming later this year, also utilizes a solid-state LED light source, giving instant on/off high brightness with no waiting time.

We also displayed our first portable, ultra-short-throw laser HD projector for business and home. The projector can throw a 100-inch image from 22 inches, giving this projector the ability to compete against flat screens. TVs can’t reach that size at a cost effective price-point, and I believe that laser-based short throw projectors will continue to become more prevalent as consumers are looking for cost-effective and high-quality home-cinema options.

TWICE: What other product categories do you plan to enter?
We are always looking at what’s next in the A/V market. We’ll continue to push future innovations within projection and audio and look at products that are a natural extension of our strengths here. Our CES demonstration of a virtual-reality headset is a perfect example of this since it plays into our strengths with high-performance light engines and optics. We will continue to test and experiment with products that push forward the A/V industry. We are targeting later this year for the VR head-mounted display. It is a wireless HMD that will connect to a PC via integrated receiver, with a USB-connected transmitter on the PC.

TWICE: What are the biggest challenges facing the residential projection market, and how are you addressing them?
Projectors have become somewhat commoditized, so it’s hard to stand out, but in truth there is so much innovation happening here this year: from solid-state lighting, to increased pixels for even better picture quality, to short-throws and bundled products that provide greater flexibility and adaptability, to price points that allow more people to try out home entertainment. We’re really focused on opening the market.

TWICE: Can you make projectors mainstream in the face of ever-growing sizes of flat-panel TVs?
We believe so. There is just no way to cost effectively scale flat panel TVs the same way you can projectors. And as projectors become more flexible, they appeal to the younger audiences who no longer have the TV as the center point of their home. And today’s projectors are easier to integrate with content and audio, and are often bundled with screens or other complementary products. It’s a smart choice. Instead of having essentially a large, fixed piece of furniture in your home, you can move your display from room to room or even to the backyard. This is an appealing value proposition.

TWICE: Compare the attributes of flat-panel displays and projectors and the niche that you see projectors filling.
The cost increases exponentially as a flat panel display becomes larger, but that is not the case with projectors. As consumers are looking for a larger display for their homes, to create an image as large as a wall, or against a garage, flat panels can be cost prohibitive – and just can’t do those things. Projectors can provide high-quality, wall-sized images at a fraction of the cost of flat panels.

TWICE: Is the residential projector market growing, and what are the trends in technology, pricing, distribution and the like?
With the introduction of new technologies and innovations in the A/V space, we have seen the residential projector market growing in appeal over the past several years. Some of the trends we are seeing that have drawn people to purchase projectors for their homes include the simplification of home theater setups through easier integration and bundling, more mainstream-appealing pricing, and the flexibility that ultra-short throw and pico projectors provide. And we’re seeing e-tail become a more important selling channel than physical retail, so finding a way to differentiate your products through a channel like Amazon has become key.

TWICE: Optoma purchased NuForce audio in late 2014. What have you done with the brand since? And do you plan to enter new product categories in audio?
The acquisition of NuForce added a portfolio of award-winning audio products to our lineup from wireless earbuds to amps and DACs. We’re now looking at how our audio and video products can best integrate for a complete and seamless home theater experience. Later this year, we we’ll be introducing multiroom wireless/Wi-Fi speakers, which will couple incredibly well with our home theater projectors to deliver that flexible, high-quality entertainment experience. We haven’t announced details yet.