Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pico Projectors Hit the Commercial Market

That is the title of a trade journal article published by Electronics Weekly…

Pico projectors hit the commercial market
Richard Wilson
Tuesday 16 March 2010 11:18

Pico projectors are set for a massive jump in shipments during the next four years as they hit a number of commercial markets including mobile phones, according to analyst iSuppli.

Shipments will rise to more than three million units in 2013, up from less than 50,000 units in 2009.

In the middle of last year, Texas Instruments demonstrated 3D-ready projectors and lamp-free data projectors based on the company's DLP chip technology.

The chip uses an array of millions of micro-mirrors which can be switched at high speed, which enables the simultaneous display of left-eye and right-eye images required for the brain to create a 3D picture.

It is the rapid refresh rate of the DLP chip which supports 3D viewing.

According to TI, as many as 30 manufacturers will have projectors on the market soon, including BenQ, InFocus, LightSpeed, Mitsubishi, Optoma, Sharp and ViewSonic.

After reading this article, I could not help wonder if this was a trade journal article on the subject of pico projectors or an infomercial for Texas Instruments, Samsung, Mitsubishi and other advertisers of Electronics Weekly.

First, here’s the link to the article that I’m talking about…

This article is so superficial in its coverage that it not only lacks depth but also the breadth in its coverage. What surprised me most were the many inaccuracies in the article and shockingly there was no mention of Microvision that launched the world’s first laser based PicoP™ projector SHOWwx in September of 2009… and most recently, on March 8th, Microvision started selling their laser based pico projector to the US customers.

Don’t you think it is shocking to see that the main author [Richard Wilson] and iSuppli projection analyst Sanju Khatri wrote this article about pico projectors but completely ignored the existence of Microvision and its laser pico projector SHOWwx? I’m sure you know, like the millions of Internet savvy global consumers do, that Microvision’s laser pico projector SHOWwx won the CES 2010 “Last Gadget Standing” award in January… and the MacWorld 2010 “Best of Show” award in February.

Microvision’s Laser/MEMS based PicoP Display Engine technology exists today and beats the competition from 3M [LED/LcoS technology] and TI [LED/DLP technology] in most all respects.

First take a look at quality of the projected images from SHOWwx and then look at its specifications… and you will see why Microvision’s Laser/MEMS based PicoP projector is so much better than the competition.

Here’s the link to SHOWwx video clip…

Here’s the side by side comparison with the competition…

Here’s the list of differentiating features of SHOWwx…

In the embedded market space, I don’t see any of the competitors coming close to Microvision in this race… not even Taxes Instruments with their power guzzling million-micromirrors based pico projector. The likes of 3M and Displaytech will never get down to acceptable levels of size, power, waste heat, auto-focus and cost requirements… as they will have the “gating issues”. Pico projectors that use million micromirrors or LcoS panels [with lenses and optics] just can’t cut the mustard in terms of physical size, power, waste heat, auto-focus and cost.

I’m sure there will be many players in the pico projection space... like Displaytech with FLCOS, 3M with LcoS, and TI with DLP technologies.

However, no matter how you slice-it or dice-it, Microvision has, in my opinion, no competition in the laser based “embedded” pico projection space... not TI… and certainly not 3M.

Microvision’s laser PicoP Display Engine will lead the rat pack because of the following:

• Small form factor that allows room to add additional built-in functionality. The competition starts-out big and can only get bigger.

• Power consumption will always be the differentiating factor. Two to three hours of use between battery charges is always more desirable than the ones that last an hour or less. Extra power pack(s) in the standalone version will make the competition at par with Microvision’s SHOWwx... but there is a high probability that the user will opt for longer run on batteries. How often do you remember scrambling for a power pack when you need one?

Microvision’s PicoP Display Engine produces virtually zero heat due to lasers being used as the light source and also due to on/off switching of lasers during dark image segments. Competing pico projection technologies of others produce enough waste heat to cook eggs... sunny side up for sure.

• “A wide angle view means that Microvision’s PDE can show a wider screen at closer distance!” This is a very important differentiation as compared to the “rest” in the market. With Microvision's PDE you get…

"A wider image [80 inch from 7 feet away, for example] from a close distance… the image is brighter and sharper… colors are more vibrant… and the image is always in focus."

• Laser based PicoP Display Engines will always have projected image in focus… regardless of the distance [from the screen] or mobility of the projector itself. Try focusing a projector every time you move [with the projector] or change the distance from the screen to change the size of the image.

• Microvision’s PDE has better image quality and is sharper [per lumen] as compared to other projectors using “diffused” light sources the competition is using. The use of diffused light source, like lamps or LED, causes the “torch effect”… where the image is brighter in the center with darker outside.

• One other problem the panel display based pico projectors have is the black outline for each pixel that shows up in their images. Laser based PicoP Display Engine do not have that problem and as such projected images will always be brighter and sharper.

• Microvision’s PDE can go from 12” to 200” diagonal image size. None of the competitor has [so far] been able to match what Microvision is offering.

• Microvision’s PDE projects bright and vivid color with 5000:1 contrast ratio.

• Microvision’ PDE projects bright and vivid color images without motion blur because of its inherent fast refresh feature from laser light source.

• Microvision’s PDE has better resolution [at 848x480] as compared to the competing technologies from 3M and TI.

• Microvision’s PicoP Display Engine is progressing nicely on upwards pathway to higher brightness of 20 lumens using the second generation green laser [G-2000] from Corning.

After the CEATEC 2009 expo, engadget had this to say about the first generation SHOWwx…

"We stopped at Microvision booth at CEATEC in order to take a look at what makes the world's first laser based pico projector so special and we can honestly say that the picture was pretty stunning."

Here’s the link engadget report…

Now just imagine what their comments would be like when they see the second generation SHOWwx [and PDEs for embedded applications] with 20 lumens of brightness and HD resolution.

Anant Goel