Saturday, June 26, 2010

Microvision: Unveils Increased Brightness, 720p HD Ready Laser Pico Projector

Press Release
Source: Microvision
Monday May 24, 2010, 6:31 am EDT

REDMOND, Wa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Microvision, Inc. (NASDAQ:MVIS - News), a leading developer of ultra-miniature projection display products announced today that it plans to demonstrate a 720p HD ready laser pico projector at The Society For Information Display annual conference, May 25 – 27, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington.

The 720p prototype pico projector outputs 15 lumens of brightness while still maintaining its compact, low profile form factor, very similar to Microvision’s current WVGA product. The company plans a commercial product version of a 720p HD PicoP display engine in the second half of 2011.

The new 720p, higher brightness prototype highlights the capability of PicoP® technology to support new performance levels while still maintaining the compelling attributes of the existing PicoP platform, including:

• Infinite focus;
• Wide throw angle that offers an immersive visual experience;
• Superior brightness uniformity;
• High optical efficiency resulting in low power requirements;
• 5000:1 contrast ratio; and
• Vivid colors of up to 200% greater than standard broadcast television

“Microvision’s growing success is rooted in our ability to anticipate market needs and proactively innovate and push the limits of our technology to address them,” stated Alexander Tokman, president and CEO. “On behalf of our entire design team, I’m extremely proud to introduce the world’s first 720p laser pico projector demonstrator that fits in the palm of your hand.”

Mr. Tokman added: “Our customers are looking for best-in-class pico projection solutions and we believe that with our demonstrated ability to advance both resolution and brightness on our core PicoP platform, Microvision will continue to be recognized as the premier provider of customer focused solutions in this exciting new product category.”

In addition to the 720p demonstrator, Microvision also plans to showcase the following developer tools, product and application demonstrations at SID in Booth 1401:

Here’s the link to the Press Release…

The company demonstratd the 720p HD laser Pico Projector at SID Conference. In addition to that, Microvision showcased portable gaming, automotive and wearable display applications that were enabled by its current PicoP Display Engine technology.

The commercial opportunities presented by the 720p PicoP projector at 15 lumens of brightness; while still maintaining its compact, low profile form factor, is huge. The current WVGA product SHOWwx ─ at 848x480 resolution and 10 lumen brightness─ has awed the early adopters. The next generation products─ using 720p resolution and 15 lumen brightness PicoP Display Engines─ will surely delight the masses when introduced in the second half of 2011.

To fully appreciate the implications of going to 720p resolution at 15 lumens brightness in the next generation products; you have to own and use the current first generation SHOWwx… to be first amazed and awed.

To further appreciate the impact and value of 720p resolution at 15 lumen brightness; let’s review the history of broadcast to put the image resolution in proper perspective…

Back in the technological dark ages of the late 20th Century, NTSC television signals were broadcast in a resolution now called 480i… in the U.S., while the rest of the world had adopted differing standards.

"480" signifies the number of horizontal lines that make up a single frame of video. The "i" stands for "interlaced," which is a system that delivers a frame of video in two fields. Interlacing was adopted back in the 1950s to overcome limited transmission bandwidth. If you can remember that far back, all TV was broadcast over antennas.

Interlacing has never been a great solution because it does not offer the best image quality. In a movie theater, film is presented one full frame at a time, which is called progressive, or simply “p”.

Until high definition came on the scene, 480i─ now often labeled standard definition or SD─ was the way that every TV set in the U.S. worked. We lived with these NTSC standards for almost fifty years. As technology and marketing marched on, researchers, manufacturers and broadcasters took a two-pronged approach to producing a better quality video image.

First, they increased the resolution of the video signal and the TVs receiving them. Though there are many different choices in the ATSC standard, the two common resolutions are called 720 and 1080. Again, resolution is denoted by the horizontal lines in a frame. Instead of the old 480, these new standards produce 720 or 1080 horizontal lines. Actually, resolution is measured in both directions, vertically and horizontally. So, you may see them listed as 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080. If you do the math, these are both 16 x 9 formats.

[Note: ATSC is a set of standards developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee for digital television transmission. ATSC replaced much of the analog NTSC television system in the United States on June 12, 2009 and will replace NTSC by August 31, 2011 in Canada.]

The simple formula is more lines of resolution = a higher quality (or we can call it a higher definition) image. Of course, nothing is simple in these HD days. The second factor in improving image quality is shifting the signal to a progressive format. Broadcasters have split on the idea of transmitting video progressively. Those who do, use the 720p format. Those who don't, opt for 1080i. Video experts, Joe Kane among many others, believe that progressive can out trump video resolution to the extent they prefer 720p over 1080i.

Of course, in the last few years, manufacturers are beginning to grace us with 1080p HDTVs. Which brings us back to the original question? If you have been following along with our HD calculus, the answer seems pretty obvious: “p” is better than “i”, and 1080 is higher than 720. No argument there… just give me the 1080p.

Well, here's the rub…

In the United States, 1080p over the air broadcasts still do not exist as of 2010; and all major networks use either 720p60 or 1080i60 encoded with MPEG-2. Satellite service providers though have many channels that utilize the 1080p/24-30 format… for example Direc TV, XstreamHD, and Dish Network.

If you mostly watch network television, and that includes ESPN HD and the premium channels like HBO HD, the best you will receive is 720p or 1080i.

Now, if your tastes run to high definition DVDs, then you will have better luck finding 1080p material in the stores. You may even see a lot of classic movies reissued in 1080p format now that the HD DVD / Blu-ray format war has been settled… with Blu ray taking the honors.

[All Blu-ray Disc and the now defunct HD DVD are able to hold 1080p HD content such as movies. Most movies released on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD can produce a full 1080p High Defiition picture when the player is connected to a 1080p HDTV with an HDMI cable. However, the Blu-ray Disc video specification only allows encoding of up to 1080p24 signal.]

One more thing you should be aware of; and that is the native resolution. Almost every new HDTV will advertise that it handles 1080p, but that does not mean that its native resolution is 1080p. A 720p TV/monitor [or projector] can display 1080p sources. They just have to downscale the image.

Now if you think about it, content is available in a range of formats, 480i, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. Your HDTV or HD projector can handle all of them through technical tricks of up-scaling or down-scaling and interlacing or de-interlacing. Not to mention how well it translates native 24 frames per second films to 30 frames per second video.

The theory of course is that a 1080p native resolution TV [or projector] will handle 1080p sources more cleanly than other lower native resolution TVs. But if the TVs [or projectors] are doing their job well, most non-hypercritical viewers will not be able to tell the difference between a 720p and a 1080p TV when watching 1080p programs.

The real test may, however, be how well a 1080p TV handles the more common lower resolution material?

One more consideration, 1080p is currently the leading edge technology… but for how long?

If you are buying an HDTV in the next few months, then supposedly purchasing a 1080p TV should future proof you for a little while!

But technology is on a roll, which feeds marketing's insatiable appetite for new products.

Expect your state of the art 1080p HDTV to be old news in the next year or two. True HD will be replaced by too good to be true Full HD… and that will morph into wallet busting eye popping Ultra HD.

You get my drift, yes?

In a year or so, I expect to hear Microvision coming out with 1080p resolution at 28 lumen brightness PicoP Display Engine; to support new performance levels while still maintaining the compelling attributes of the existing PicoP platform. 

It is then, that I expect the 1080p resolution and 28 lumens bright PicoP Display Engines to be at the heart of front end media projectors; and selling for a few hundred dollars to give the energy guzzling 1080p HDTVs the run for their money… or should I say: “run for their life”.

Anant Goel
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