Soothsayer 4: Questions for Microvision’s Conference Call

I have been traveling for most of the last 2 weeks with a number of business meetings.   I thought I would get a quick blog out today ahead of Microvision’s  investor conference call on Monday Feb 27th (tomorrow as I write this).  I’ve listen to a few Microvision conference calls in the past and they usually say they have made great progress to some vague “goals” and then get a few softball/easy questions from the “financial analysts” that are allowed to ask questions and then quickly end the call.   You can listen to if “live” at 8:30AM Easter (5:30AM Pacific) or for a few days recorded at http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?p=irol-eventDetails&c=114723&eventID=4727742.

It does not take some deep dark secret (i.e. confidential) information to figure out that laser beam steering ala Microvision has serious problems.   It just takes some engineering and business knowledge.  Below are a few questions I would like to see asked along with some information.

Microvision “720p” Optics and Driver Board

1) Isn’t the combination of the optics and drive electronics for Microvision’s 720p (see picture)  too large to be embedded into any major brand cell phone?    Right now you have 2 large ASICs and an FPGA to control the lasers and the mirror where the competition has only 1 much smaller ASIC.    According to the technical specifications this optics and electronics module is 35mm × 65mm × 6 .1 mm; how small do you have to get the module to meet the requirements of the major cell phone companies and when will you meet this requirement?

2) According to your technical specifications for the new 720p module, at “27% video” the power dissipation is “approximately 2 Watts.”   If this is 27% of 15 lumens (or even 25 lumens), it would suggest that at full brightness the power dissipation is on the order of 4 to 5 Watts.   You have stated in the past that the goal to meet the cell phone requirements about 1 Watt.   This would seem to be much worst power dissipation than the competing technologies.  How is any cell phone company going to embedded something like this that consumes so much power?     How long do you expect to take to get the power dissipation for the projector module down to your stated goal of about 1 Watt?

3)  According to your technical specifications for the new 720p module, at 25 lumens the module is a class 3R laser product and at 15 lumens it is class 2.   A) at what lumens between 15 and 25 does the product cross over into class 3R?  B) Isn’t even laser safety class 2 a serious problem for consumer product including cell phone companies?   C) What are the issues with trying to sell a class 3R product in the market, particularly when the competing technologies such as DLP and LCOS don’t have this issue?

4)  In your December 19th 2011 8K you stated“So what do I mean by “commercial version” direct green laser? It’s a laser that has passed through intense qualification by the component manufacturer to insure that it meets all of its intended performance specifications, with confirmed reliability and manufacturability necessary for mass production.”  But commercialization only means that they will be available for sale at some price, and it says nothing about them being viable for making profitable product.  Doesn’t all this talk about the definition of “commercial” just avoid the real issue of whether the lasers you need for laser beam steering will be PRACTICAL in terms of cost, power efficiency, lifetime, and wavelength (color) in 2012 and 2013 for embedded products like cell phones?

5)  The blog KGOnTech has posted several articles stating the laser beam scanning process will result in lower than your claimed 720p resolution.  Can you actually demonstrate that you can actually fully resolve a 1280 by 720 pixel test pattern?

6)  Lately you seem to have put a lot on emphasis on automotive heads up displays (HUD).    The power and size requirements are much more relaxed for this market.    Is this in some ways an admission that the lasers are not going to be ready for any embedded products in the near future.    

7)  Realistically, how large is the market going to be for an after market automotive HUD?   Are the laser cost, availability, brightness, and other specification acceptable today for the automotive market?

Please feel free to add questions or ask me to clarify my questions in the comments.

Karl

12 comments

  1. Martin Hillerby says:

    Those are some tough questions for MVIS. Here’s some for you…
    1. Does this patent lawsuit against Syndiant have anything to do with you leaving ?
    2. Are these patents directed against the technology you developed?
    3. Is there a way your technology can still be effective if you can’t use the tech these patents refer to?
    4. Did you know your technology was in dispute when you left Syndiant?

    http://www.picoprojector-info.com/compound-photonics-sues-syndiant-over-4-patents

    • admin says:

      1. Does this patent lawsuit against Syndiant have anything to do with you leaving ?
      A. Absolutely not. I didn’t know anything about it until it became public on the internet around March 22nd

      2. Are these patents directed against the technology you developed?
      A. I believe the claims against Syndiant are without merit. Just because they have a patent, doesn’t mean it applies, and it this specific case I don’t believe the patents are applicable. Unfortunately, companies in the United States can bring suits whether or not there is merit pretty much with impunity.

      3. Is there a way your technology can still be effective if you can’t use the tech these patents refer to?
      A. Yes, since I believe the claims are without merit. I don’t think they would have filed a suit if they didn’t see value in Syndiant’s technology.

      4. Did you know your technology was in dispute when you left Syndiant?
      A. As per #1, I didn’t know anything about it until it became public in March.

      • Martin Hillerby says:

        Thanks for your reply Karl. I will say this, you don’t avoid questions and do talk about the technology. I wish MVIS answered my questions. Any tough ones they avoid answering or give a very generic general answer. I’m surprised you didn’t know about this before the public did. I would have thought other Syndiant execs would have talked to you abuot it since you were the CTO and developed Syndiant’s tech. Why didn’t Syndiant talk to you and ask for your opinion? You said the lawsuit is without merit. Could you explain why in your usual techical way? Also “IF” it turns out Syndiant loses the lawsuit and is found to be in violation of their patents will Syndiant still be effective if they won’t let Syndiant use the disputed technology?

        • Martin Hillerby says:

          I would have thought Syniant would have been informed of this BEFORE the suit was filed…>>>

          http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/appxl_35_U_S_C_287.htm

          “In the event of failure so to mark, no damages shall be recovered by the patentee in any action for infringement, except on proof that the infringer was notified of the infringement and continued to infringe thereafter, in which event damages may be recovered only for infringement occurring after such notice. Filing of an action for infringement shall constitute such notice”

        • admin says:

          Since this is an on-going legal action, it is not prudent for me to comment any further. I just wanted to make it clear that nobody at Syndiant including myself knew of the suit or that it was eminent prior to my leaving. So it was impossible for it to have been a factor in my leaving Syndiant.

          • Martin Hillerby says:

            Thanks Karl. Has Syndiant contacted you in any way in regards to defending this lawsuit? Do you know if Syndiant was contacted by the company suing them mentioning the patent dispute before the lawsuit was filed? It seems if they want monetary relief they had to inform before filing. Has Syndiant’s attorneys contacted you asking for no comment?

  2. Mark Rogers says:

    As usual, Karl is full of hyperbole thinking that LCOS will save the world in pico projectors. Commentary is just too one-sided for me. Yes, LCOS has its merits, but so do the other two technologies, three if you include LCD (I’m thinking HUD). As someone that is immersed in this technology supplying components for all the above, we see the pros and cons of each and I must tell you that LCOS has severe limitations – contrast, power consumption, contrast, size, contrast. Patents abound and Syndiant will go under just fending off the legal wolves. A pity, since the technology is pretty cool. DLP technology cannot be miniaturized successfully above 800×600 resolution. Witness their qHD – hello- quarter VGA pico projector inside Samsung’s latest projector phone. Today’s laser/MEMS projectors can shine 36 Lumens safely with resolutions to 720p today. Once the green lasers become available, they’ll be embedded everywhere.

    • Mark Rogers says:

      Karl,
      The Gen. 3 technology behind bTendo and MVIS will reduce power, size and cost substantially followed by an increase in resolution. We’re talking less than 1W and dropping with laser efficiency. Remove the video processor – driven by the onboard processor on the phone or host product, and that power consumption goes down even further as the native green, red and blue lasers keep getting more efficient.
      Mark
      Mark

      • admin says:

        Well let’s see see them do it and demonstrate it. Microvision is currently at about 5 Watts for their ShowWX at 15 lumens. Their 720p I believe is currently worst than that with the available direct green lasers. To get to 1W at only 15 lumens they need to improve on Microvision by 5X.

        You seem to have totally bought off on the marketing spin. LBS continues to make great claims about someday doing all these great things, but when it comes to actually demonstrating it they are always a few miracles away. They have been very good at the slight of hand of getting you to focus on what they do well and to ignore the “stuff behind the curtain” that they do poorly.

    • admin says:

      Why all the vitriol with nothing but misinformation and unsubstantiated claims to back it up? Based on your comments you at best only have a superficial understanding of the technology. LCOS can produce more than sufficient contrast (depending on the LC mode it can be greater than 10,000 to 1 but in pico application it can be several hundred to 1). LCOS power consumption is less than DLP and way less than laser beam scanning. LCOS can make very small pixels to support very small panels. What holds LCOS back today is needing a polarized light source with very low etendue which is why lasers are so important to the future of LCOS.

      You are also wrong about DLP. They can make smaller mirrors and panels, but have delayed going to market with them, because the pico projector market has been slow to materialize. DLP is definitely “challenged” in the pico projector space due to the power consumed in moving the mirror and they have a larger gap between pixels which causes major diffraction issues with small pixels. You are factually wrong several ways with your “qHD” comment. First qHD is 960 by 540 pixels (1/4 the pixels of 1080p). Second DLP doesn’t have a qHD panel on the market, they have an nHD panel (1/9th 1080P) which is 640×360 pixels or 3/4th of VGA. Unlike the Laser Beam Scanning people that make all kinds of wonderful claims, the DLP is actually in a real product today.

      Due to the way the laser beams scan, they may claim to be 720p, but have you MEASURED them? Their scanning process is such that they have to rescale/blur the pixels. Thus their effective resolution is about 1/2 to 1/4 what they claim if MEASURED. Then you have all the artifacts (and flicker at least in the case of Microvision) of the LBS scanning process. I have yet to see any analysis that says that LBS is not above class 2 laser safety above 20 lumens. Microvision’s own document on their Gen2 says that a 25 lumens they are class 3R which is a BIG problem for a consumer product. I can tell you from first hand conversations with multiple cell phone companies that they don’t want to use anything that is above class 1 in a cell phone. LBS can only go to about 1 lumen at class 1 whereas DLP and LCOS can be about 100 lumens at class 1. Even if they could go to 36 Lumens safely, you have to ask yourself who is going to want a 36 lumen projector by the time they can make one at a cost that people will be willing to pay in large numbers?

      I’m a big believer in green lasers but I am also trying to be realistic about the time frame. Direct green lasers are still barely better than lab prototypes, particular at the wavelengths they need to be for a good projector. Right now they can’t simultaneously solve the wavelength, efficiency, and yield/cost. They will someday, but that day is probably at least 2 years away and many in the industry would say more. You seem to have bought off on the “marketing spin” of the LBS companies, namely that direct green lasers are their only problem. You have to go more than a surface analysis that ignores the considerable problems with LBS.

      • filmwatch says:

        Are you saying MVIS will fail because of LBS?

        • admin says:

          I believe that MVIS has failed (they have lost over $400 million in shareholder equity to date) and will continue for fail as a business for many reasons including some fundamental flaws with the LBS concept. LBS is one of those concepts that sounds good until you really understand it. Microvision’s main business appears to be printing stock certificates. The more one understands all the issues with LBS, the less viable it looks as a technology.

          There are many serious issues with LBS. The most obvious one today is the cost of lasers but today this just serves to hide all the other issues. There are also serious questions as to the power consumption, the cost of components (other than lasers), the image quality (which is very poor compared to other technologies) not to mention the issues with meeting eye safety requirements.

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