Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Microvision: Patents Laser 3D Projector with PicoP Display Engine (Part 1)

3D TVs started to arrive in consumer electronic stores in early March to great fanfare, and consumers are intrigued...but are also curious. The big question, of course, is whether these new TVs can transport the 3D excitement from movie theaters to our homes.

Based on excitment generated by the first available HDTV models with 3D video capabilities, the answer is a resounding yes.

Research has shown that users prefer wide screen, high definition, 2D/3D motion pictures with fast refresh [without motion blur] and always in focus images for all forms of video [static, streaming, and broadcast] communications.

3D Content Meets 3D Laser Projector:

3D content is proliferating rapidly. Movies, games and increasingly live sports and concert videos are being filmed in 3D. One unique challenge facing this emerging category is the lack of in-home 3D displays. The 120Hz LCD panels and plasma screens typically require shutter glasses for viewing 3D content, but next generation display technologies employ passive 3D glasses… which are lighter weight, cost less and are more acceptable to the wearer.

Microvision's laser scanning PicoP Display technology platform enables 3D content in the home that is viewed through lightweight passive glasses… all without the purchase of a new, large, expensive flat panel monitor. Recently, in June of 2009, Ben Averch of Microvision made a presentation at the 2009 Projection Summit. His presentation addressed the burgeoning 3D content market and the unique value proposition for a mobile 3D laser projector…using Microvision’s PicoP Display Engine.

In March 2009, Microvision received a patent on laser PicoP based 3D projector. That means the laser PicoP Display Engine of today will have upward growth mobility to High Definition projection [first] and then to 3D projection using passive glasses. That’s an exciting growth road map for the little master of the pico projector domain.

Here’s the information on the patent…


An image projection system having an optical projector and a method for projecting an image. The image projection system enables viewing the images in three dimensions and securely viewing the images in a public forum. The image projection system may include a portable, handheld optical projector that is spaced apart from a display screen and that redirects an image signal to the display screen. The image signal is scattered by the display screen and transmitted to a viewer’s eyes through a set of eyewear worn by the viewer. The display screen preserves the polarization state of the image signal. The portable handheld optical projector may be a cellular phone, a personal digital assistant, a portable computer, or the like that includes one or more sets of light emission systems capable of projecting the image signal. The optical projector may be portable and handheld, or stationary or semi-stationary.

Here’s the link to the patent document…

This is great news for the simple reason...

The next big thing that the display industry is going into is 3D. Look at the number of 3D movies coming out lately… they have dramatically increased. Here’re some quotes from the patent application…

3D Technology:

“In addition to displaying images in two-dimensions, projection display manufacturers have developed systems for displaying images in three-dimensions. One technique for creating three dimensional (“3D”) projection display systems is to create two separate monochromatic images…

Although these systems are inexpensive to implement, the color reproduction of the images is poor and the filters may not completely block the adjacent eye’s image, which causes ghosting. Further, the technique uses large immobile equipment to project the images.”

“Another technique for creating a 3D image is to project separate images having different polarization states…

This technique offers better color reproduction than the red-blue monochromatic technique, however the projection displays are large, stationary, expensive to implement, and, because about half the light is lost, inefficient.”

“Accordingly, it would be advantageous to have a three-dimensional display system and a method for displaying three-dimensional images that is; cost efficient to manufacture, makes efficient use of light, and may be either stationary or portable.”

“The portable handheld optical projector may be a cellular phone, a personal digital assistant, a portable computer, or the like that includes one or more sets of light emission systems capable of projecting the image signal. The optical projector may be portable and handheld, or stationary or semi-stationary.”

Microvision 3D Projector patent states…

“In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, an image projection system comprises a light emission system and a scanning device, wherein the light emission system includes a plurality of light sources. For example, the light sources may be two sets of red-green-blue (“RGB”) lasers, where one set of lasers transmits light in a first polarization state and the other set of lasers transmits light in a second polarization state that is different from the first polarization state. Thus, this embodiment comprises two red lasers, two green lasers, and two blue lasers, where the red lasers emit light having different polarization states from each other, the green lasers emit light having different polarization states from each other, and the blue lasers emit light having different polarization states from each other. The light can be linearly polarized or circularly polarized. In the case of a linear polarization state, the light transmitted to one filter may be vertically polarized and the light transmitted to the other filter may be horizontally polarized. In the case of a circular polarization state, the light transmitted to one filter may be right circularly polarized and the light transmitted to the other filter may be left circularly polarized. It should be noted that the light may be coherent light or non-coherent light.

The light from one set of lasers is combined and redirected towards a display screen using a scanning device and the light from the other set of lasers is combined and redirected towards the display screen using the same scanning device as the first set of lasers or a different scanning device. The scanning device spatially modulates the light to vary the color and intensity of each pixel. The scanned beam displays are configured to slightly vary the content between the two two-dimensional images as they are projected into a viewer's eyes. The brain uses this difference in content to create an illusion of depth. More particularly, the light from one set of RGB lasers is in a first polarization state and the light from the other set of RGB lasers is in a second polarization state that is the opposite of the first polarization state. The light from all the lasers may be combined into a single light beam and spatially modulated in unison. Thus, all the light sources are scanned through the same angular extent. The three-dimensional image may be created by temporally delaying the video signal and modulating the intensity of each laser. The scattered light strikes eyewear worn by a viewer, wherein the eyewear includes a filter associated with the viewer's left eye and a filter associated with the viewer's right eye.

In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, privacy in a public forum may be provided by the image projection system. The eyewear worn by the viewer is configured to decode polarized light. The light can be linearly polarized or circularly polarized. The portable handheld source of electromagnetic radiation projects an image in a first polarization state and an inverse image in a second polarization state that is complementary to the first polarization state. The viewer wearing the eyewear can filter one set of images seeing only the desired content transmitted by the portable handheld source of electromagnetic radiation, whereas others see a “white image” on the display screen. Thus, the viewer can view projected images that are of a personal nature or confidential while others are prevented from viewing or decoding the images. Alternatively, privacy in a public forum can be achieved by using eyewear that is synchronized to the polarization states of the light.”

The display screen is a polarization preserving screen. Thus, the light striking display screen and the light scattered by display screen have the same polarization state. In accordance with one embodiment, display screen comprises a microlens array coated with a layer of aluminum. In accordance with another embodiment, display screen comprises a surface having a silver finish. Suitable screens may be available from Da-Lite Screen Company, Warsaw, Ind., 46581.

Eyewear set comprises of a frame having bow, temples, and filters that transmit images to the left and right eyes. Filters are configured to decode polarized light. The polarized light can be linearly polarized light or circularly polarized light. Filters comprise a quarter-wavelength plate laminated to a polarizer. It should be noted that the type of plates laminated to polarizer are not limitations of the present invention. For example, plates can be waveplates, polarizer filters, combinations of polarizers, combinations of waveplates, polarizing optics, or the like. In addition, the polarization transmission characteristics of filters are not limitations of the present invention. Filters may be configured to decode vertically or horizontally polarized light or right or left circularly polarized light. Techniques for coupling plates to polarizers are known to those skilled in the art.

Here’s what I think…

The PicoP Display Engine will first go with High Definition images and then progress to 3D projection. That looks like the growth path for the next 2 to 3 years with huge revenue growth potential.

Anant Goel

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Microvision: One More Purchase Order in Next Two Weeks?

First, the good news…

Microvision Completes Design of New PicoP Laser Display Engine for Mobile Embedded Applications

Press Release
Source: Microvision
Monday March 29, 2010, 7:29 am EDT

REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Microvision (NASDAQ:MVIS - News), a leading developer of ultra-miniature projection display products, announced today that it has completed the design and begun shipping initial evaluation samples to several prospective customers of its new ultra-miniature PicoP® laser projection display engine.

Here’s the link…

Then, the exciting news…

Microvision Receives $8.5 Million Purchase Order for New PicoP Laser Projection Display Engine

Press Release
Source: Microvision
Monday April 5, 2010, 7:06 am EDT

REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Microvision (NASDAQ:MVIS - News), a leading developer of ultra-miniature projection display products, announced today that it has received an $8.5 million purchase order for its new ultra-miniature PicoP® laser projection display engine from a consumer electronics customer. The OEM plans to embed the PicoP engine inside a high-end mobile media player for release in late 2010 and plans to announce its launch at that time.

Here’s the link…

Now for some projections [pun intended] into the future…

There are four areas that I would like to focus on…

1. SHOWwx was just the beginning of things to come

2. Laser PicoP Technology as “Core” Technology vs. “Commodity” Technology

3. More Purchase Order to Confirm Rapid Ramp-up of Green Laser Production.

4. Case for brighter [like 20 lumens] PicoP Display Engines for the embedded version.

SHOWwx Just the Beginning of Things to Come:
On March 24th, Microvision started selling its laser PicoP projector SHOWwx to the US market… selling them directly; from its on-line web store for a handsome profit. When you sell directly; your margins are always better because of the savings in middleman’s commission. By the next earnings conference call; we would find out for sure what sales revenue and profit margins are from on-line sale of SHOWwx.

On April 5th, Microvision confirmed the receipt of a purchase order for $8.5 million dollars for its ultra miniature PDE… and that is the part that confirms my view that SHOWwx and the $8.5 million purchase order is the just the beginning of things to come.

Here’s why…
Potential markets for laser based PicoP Display Engine technology is not only huge… but it is also a high margin market opportunity. If you were to consider the high-end Media Player market alone… the possibilities are enormous…

Low Power Front Projection Media Players for the Third World Countries:

Think about 2.5 billion people in India and China... as they represent the potential buyers of a low power front projection portable TV/Media Player that offers a large screen [40'' to 100''] high definition always in focus vivid and bright color viewing experience. Extremely low ENERGY consumption [like 10 watts or less] and portability is the key market demand factor here. Energy will become more and more scarce and expensive by leaps and bounds…whereas the portability allows for sharing of resources among friends and family.

Low Power Front Projection Media Player for the Master Bedroom:

Think about a billion bedrooms globally that could use a ceiling projector... for adding another dimension to the various ways of media consumption for information and entertainment. We have desired the bedroom viewing of television for ever, so it seems, and some of us may have installed televisions in the bedroom. However, now it is possible to add, by the millions, a low power media player with built-in PicoP projector in our bedrooms… that offers short throw ratio, wide screen, high definition, bright and vivid color, and always in focus viewing experience. Media player/projector runs on low power batteries... so no risk of electrocuting yourself. No significant heat... so you won't burn yourself. No heavy duty TV to install on the bedroom wall.

Low Power Portable Projection Media Player for Every Bedroom in the House:

All you need is one portable Media Player with built-in PicoP projector… that gets moved around from room to room when and where it’s needed. It certainly is a cheaper alternative than buying a TV for each room of the house. This portable Media Player can also be the one you pack with your bags… when you are on the go.

Market Size for Portable Media Players with built-in PicoP Projectors is huge… like in billions world-wide. The most recent order for $8.5 million from the Consumer Electronic Company is just the beginning of what’s to come and not the end.

Laser PicoP Technology as “Core” Technology vs. “Commodity” Technology:
Some have questioned the laser PicoP as “core” technology [like CPUs from Intel] vs. “commodity” technology [like cell phone touch screen and cameras].

My take on the subject is as follows...

Picop [the generic version] is an enabling technology and therefore a commodity... no question about that.

However, laser PicoP is a core technology and that's how it is being positioned by Microvision. Picop technology from TI or 3M will not create [or capture] as large a market as laser PicoP would... due to inherent image quality and functionality only possible due to lasers being used as the light source.

Microvision laser PicoP technology will capture its fair share of the captive markets but it would go-on-further and create markets that are only possible because of laser PicoP. And that's not the commodity markets by any means. Microvision recognizes that right from the beginning; and therefore is positioning the PicoP Display Engines accordingly… by using the “Image by PicoP” insignia on every thing related to its technology.

There will be others with laser picop technology down the road... and that's why Microvision is churning out these patents by the dozens… to protect its IP turf. Also, the "Image by PicoP" is part of this marketing strategy that positions Microvision PicoP technology as a "core" and not "commodity" right from day one. From what I have seen, and there is plenty of evidence for you to see as well, Microvision is charging a premium price for its PicoP technology. Just look at SHOWwx Limited Edition sold at $999 and the Commercial Edition currently for sale at $549.

I hope you can appreciate the difference... because it’s worth billions of dollars when it is executed with knowledge, passion, and gumption.

More Purchase Orders to Confirm Rapid Ramp-up of Green Laser Production:
If there was another Purchase Order next week, would that convince you that Osram and Corning are ramping-up production of their green lasers faster than expected?

Here’s what I’m thinking…

Many OEMs have sampled the first version PEKs from last year. Now the second generation PEKs, for embedded applications, are going out and dramatically improve upon what has been tested before! I believe that the embedded version of the PicoP Display Engine is brighter [over 20 lumens], smaller and consumes less energy.

In other words, time to market for these OEMs has collapsed to a point that few more may be interested in bringing PicoP embedded digital devices to the market for the coming Christmas season. I don’t think the Japanese and Koreans are going to let APPLE hog all the discretionary income of the America consumer for the iPad.

The case for brighter PicoP Display Engine for Embedded Application…
Corning has been slow to ramp-up due to improvements in their SHG green laser technology… that is the switch from “wave guided SHG laser” to “SIDM-based adaptive optics SHG laser” technology. I remember, from a year ago in a conversation with the Corning Product Manager, that G-2000 green laser would incorporate enhancements leading to brighter pictures… with a target goal of 20 lumens or better.

Here’re some links…

Corning G-1000 laser design [at 10 lumens with 10:1 contrast ratio] and the SIDM-based adaptive optics technology…

Corning G-2000 laser pumps more lumens [like 23 lumens] at a reduced contrast ratio of 3:1 …

Corning licked its waveguided SHG laser production issues last year by switching over to SIDM-based adaptive optics technology.

This year, Corning is the wild card with its contrast optimized green laser at 23 lumens.

Microvision future is bright and is getting brighter every day… just like its laser PicoP Display Engine.

Higher stock valuation will come in time… just like the HD resolution on its PicoP projection images.

Anant Goel

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Microvision: Color Eyewear Development Program

Now that Microvision has commercially launched its laser PicoP projector SHOWwx in the US market; and that the initial shipments have begun in earnest, the inquiring minds want to know: “Now what?”

From what I hear, the focus has now increased in scope to embrace additional five areas with varying levels of priority and resource allocation…

• PicoP Display Engine modules for embedded applications,

• High Definition and brighter pico image initiative,

• Color Eyewear product development,

• 3D projector and light weight passive polarized 3D glasses development,

• New PEK modules and development support for multitude of third party applications.

I promise to pass on the information, on each of the above subjects, as it becomes available to me… or when it has gathered some critical mass to become worthy of further discussion.

So, here we go with our first subject that seems to be coming back to life after sitting on the back burner for almost six months…

First, here’s the link to Microvision Eyewear Development Program that I found on the Internet…

Note the key statement…

“Microvision and its business partners are developing see-through personal Color Eyewear for mobility applications that will extend the usability of mobile devices transforming the user experience.”

Microvision Color Eyewear Product alone is worth billions in [high margin] revenue for the company.

This is why…

Paradigm Shift: Another Microvision product that will change the way we view our world.

Ultimate Mobility: Allows you to engage with the world and your personal mobile content at the same time.

Extend the Usability of Mobile Devices: to further enhance and transform user experience.

Ultimate Social Networking Tool: Allows you to keep in constant contact with social networks… without having to pull your mobile phone out of your pocket.

Next Generation of Color Eyewear: that is not only fashionable but also elevates the user experience.

Ultimate in Private Viewing: of information for business [like teleprompter], networking and entertainment.

Ultimate in High Definition Image Quality: High Definition images in 1080i or beyond… limited only by the pixel size of laser light source.

Immersive Virtual Experiences: in 2D or 3D using Microvision’s Color Eyewear equipped with Augmented Reality

Market Size: Multi-billion dollar worldwide market… no doubt.

Competition: None to speak of at this time.

Timing: Coming soon… in 2011 or there about. Timing of commercial product release to the global market is the only wild card in the deck.

Program Funding: by Lockheed Martin sub-contract…

Here’s this statement from Press Release of July 13th, 2009…

“Microvision is very pleased to work with Lockheed Martin to advance the development of see-through eyewear displays in support of the DARPA ULTRA-Vis program…”

“… By designing Microvision’s ultra-miniature PicoP Display Engine and our thin Substrate Guided Relay (SGR) Optics into a wearable display, we have the potential to bring battery operable, low-profile, see-through, full-color eyewear displays to users.”

“DARPA has created the ULTRA-Vis program to bring tactical see-through heads-up information to ground soldiers in order to increase their safety and situational awareness in urban environments, the company said. When integrated to an information management system, Microvision said its eyewear display could enable users to receive visual commands, view geo-registered iconic representations, and receive other full-color image content overlaid on their view.

Here’s the link…

When you add the billions of dollars revenue potential from the PicoP Display Engine and PicoP Projector market to the “Color Eyewear” market… there is no better conclusion than: “Microvision has the potential of becoming a multi-billion dollar enterprise no doubt”.

Will Microvision stock [Nasdaq: MVIS] be a $500 stock in year 2014 remains to be seen… however all the signs are pointing that we are heading in the right direction and smart money is taking position as we speak?

We, as investors, can be part of this paradigm shift that has the potential of extraordinary financial gains during the “change” process that may spread over a few years… and is underway already.

Anant Goel
(This blog entry represents only the author’s opinion of Microvision as an investment vehicle)


Friday, April 2, 2010

Microvision: Initial Reviews of Laser PicoP Projector SHOWwx

On March 24th, Microvision launched its first laser PicoP projector SHOWwx for sale from its on-line store…

Sales of this DVD quality and focus free laser projector have been quite brisk without any visible signs of advertising or promotional effort… indicating a broad based demand; from those that are aware of this pico projection as the emerging new technology that seems to have arrived in full bloom this spring.

I received my Limited Edition SHOWwx a few days ago and shared the pico projection experience with my friends, family and some total strangers.

Here’s my personal experience with Limited Edition SHOWwx…

The packaging is First Class, including a solid high quality 12x16" shiny black box that says "Image by PicoP" in silver letters. All the accessories are in their own quality boxes and they all rest on black grass like packing material. It also includes a Limited Edition SHOWwx Laser Pico Projector Certificate of Authenticity signed by Alexander Tokman… the CEO of Microvision. I was very impressed as to the very upscale quality of the packaging. It tells me that Microvision is a quality company with a quality product included in the box.

The metallic blue color SHOWwx was nicely packed compactly in its own compartment. A chrome plated insignia “SHOWwx Limited Edition” graced on the top half of the laser projector. I quickly read thru the few pages of instructions and safety manual to familiarize with the fine nuances of this feather weight machine that boasts of up to 100” projection display under certain ambient light conditions.

I inserted the battery in the SHOWwx as instructed in the manual and charged the battery for a few hours till the orange light turned green. When I first turned it on, it displayed my name in the lower right hand corner which was pretty cool. I walked around the house projecting various size images up and down the ceiling to walls to the hard wood floor. What an experience… feeling like a kid in the candy store! The highlight of this experience culminated in the fairly dark entertainment center in my finished basement.

Over 100” vivid color and focused image on the white wall just had one response from my 10 year old son… WOW!

One of the main usages that I had planned for SHOWwx was to watch streaming sports and You Tube videos. But, I still have not yet figured out how to enable the external monitor/projector on my HP Pavilion laptop. I tried the FN+F5 key combination the laptop instructions recommended; but that didn't work so I'll keep working on that.

The next thing I wanted to use SHOWwx was to hook it up to my portable DVD player and watch big screen movies in the entertainment center of the basement. Since my portable DVD player has 9" screen, it handles and travels well but I wanted a bigger screen to watch the movies. Surprisingly, even though SHOWwx comes with 4 different cables the one I needed was not included. So, I had to buy the proper male to male RCA video cable for $5 at the local Radio Shack

I hooked it up to my portable DVD player and found I had to press a switch that made my DVD screen go dark but produced a picture on the SHOWwx. The colors were bright and vivid and there were no green lines on the top or bottom of the screen when playing “Star Wars” on the DVD. The picture is certainly brighter when the screen size is 40” diagonal… but is still very sharp at 80” diagonal. Like most projectors the SHOWwx works best in a dimly lit or dark room… just like in a theater. The battery charge was good enough to last over 110 minute… before I had to go looking for the spare that came with the Limited Edition SHOWwx.

Paul Anderson did a very nice experiment with the SHOWwx battery run time that you should take a few minutes to look at…

Overall, I think it works great and the unit is so light you could easily carry it in a shirt pocket although mine came with a nice heavy duty carrying case with an "X" (for SHOWwx) on it that easily clips-on to your belt.

The only obvious improvement I would recommend; is to include an on-board SD memory card… for downloading and using digital content without having to attach SHOWwx to a host device.

With my personal experience set aside…

Initial reviews of SHOWwx and its projection image quality are coming-in from the first adopter users of the Limited Edition and the Commercial Edition product that was just recently shipped over the last few days.

If you are willing to accept the good with the bad, here’s a collection from a diverse group of people that have had a chance to look at the SHOWwx image projection in real life setting:

• “Tremendous product! This pico projection communicates the giddy excitement that awaits those who see and play with the PicoP for the first time. Such a bright, clear, colorful image from such a tiny device is hard to accept at first, as it contradicts one's prior experiences. Those guys were getting happy feet just like I did the first time I saw the PicoP in action. Microvision technology is going to OWN the high quality end of these emerging product categories.”

• “The projected image is from iPod Touch that has a resolution of 483 by 320 pixels. SHOWwx has a resolution of 848 by 480 pixels. If you liked the image at 483x320 pixels [iPod Touch] just imagine how awesome the image would look at 848x480 pixels.”

• “Even at the $549 launch price this product is amazing value and I for one will probably be buying several.”

• "...the amazing thing about this projector, it's not a shitty DLP or LCD based light engine... it's a scanning LASER!!!"

• "Because it's a beam of light from lasers it's always in focus, incredibly bright and the lasers have an immense lifetime..."

• "The Microvision laser projector seriously impresses me (and come on, you know how cynical I am!) but I'm not at all excited by those little DLP projectors that are just hitting the market... they are built on an old technology that isn't translating to the mobile world very well at all..."

• I have seen the videos of this product image. What I notice is so much better image quality in real life. It's worth mentioning a few facts:

1. Due to the slight difference between the refresh rate of video camera and the laser scan lines on the Microvision projector; the video image appears to flicker… which does not happen in "real life" and is a side-effect of recording projected image with a camera.

2. Most digital cameras don’t handle the low ambient light recording well and therefore don’t do the SHOWwx pico projector any favors... but the video images still look amazing!

• “Needless to say, I absolutely LOVE this product."

• "Yeah - Dad's mad about this, but I have to admit the demo was excellent. No focusing and a massive clear image created from a handset-sized device. Imagine sharing your images at a party on a wall...”

• “This unit outperforms the comparable Optoma unit and the actual projector is about 2/3rd of the size of an iPhone."

• “Those guys were stunned. I love to see the reaction of tech junkies like me.”

• “Just get me some big fat orders and I'll be happy.”… Obviously from someone who desperately wants to work for Microvision in the sales department.

• “You might mention that the flickering on the screen doesn't show when you're using the projector live. And yeah, I want one . . .”.

• “It is almost laughable now how the "green laser supply" issue has been blown out of all proportions by so many others. A serious public company with serious business doesn't require reading a bunch of tea leafs or put out a bunch of rumor fodder.”

• “Go back and look at all the posts for the last 8 years about how many "this is it" posts on a tea leaf reading have been pronounced and how many have come true?”

• “He could have been referring to a couple of large corporations with sales forces that have inquired about purchasing a number of units when available. However, I think they would want on-board memory so they can load-up a presentation without a second device hooked-up.”

• “Looks a lot better than the Pico Pocket Projector I reviewed a couple of months ago. Looking forward to buying SHOWwx with on-board memory in the near future!”

• “Brilliant! The fact that it's non-focus is the best part.”

• “… I think the SHOWWX is fantastic and everyone will want one when they find out about it.”

So there you have it, comments from those enamored with PicoP… those with inquisitive minds… and those who are skeptics.

Be careful with what you wish for!

Anant Goel