Microvision in their blog and their recent 8-K statement wrote “Lest you be led astray by false soothsayers.” I would agree not to be led by “false soothsaying” but I think that it is Microvision that is trying to lead people astray. I very much believe in the future of direct green lasers but the problem is that the reality does not fit with what Microvision appears to want people to believe.
In my previous post, Microvision’s “Soothsayer(?)” for their “Number One Question”, I outlined where Microvision’s blog response (to me I have every reason to believe) missed the mark on answering the key questions related to direct green lasers. In my opinion, they gave non-answers and half-truths.
This certainly is not the first time Microvision has engaged in “false soothsaying.” For this blog entry, I want to deal with Microvision’s comments and predictions on power consumption through the years. Something for which there is a track record of Microvision predictions and then the measured results.
Since at least as far back as 2007, Microvision’s Alex Tokman has been saying that their “goal” is 1.5 Watts dropping to 1 Watts for their total power. I have copied below a number of references quoting Mr. Tokman in 2007 and 2008 prior to the introduction of the ShowWX.
I have also personally measured (pictured above) the ShowWX that Microvision actually delivered in March of 2010. It consumed not 1, not 2, not 3 or even 4, but rather it consumed a wopping 5.6 Watts and I measured only about 10.5 lumens of light output for about 2 lumens per Watt. This was by far the worst efficiency than any of the “LED” pico projectors I had measure using DLP or LCOS that I have measured. So much for Microvision’s claim that laser beam scanning is the most efficient.
I measured both the power consumption for white (top picture) and it came out to 5V times 1.12A or 5.6 Watts for 10.5 lumens. Microvision claimed a big advantage for laser beam steering is how they save power when displaying black so I measure a full black image (lower picture) and it came to 5V times 0.7A or 3.5 Watts so that even when putting out a black image it consumed more power than the LED projectors did putting out well over 10 lumens.
Below are some of the Microvision quotes (and my comments) on power consumption I found in a quick web search. They show I think a consistent attempt to create an impression that their power consumption was much better than it actually was and was going to be:
As good a reference as any on to Microvision’s “sooth saying” on power was an article in the “The Economist” from Mar 6th 2008:
“Mr Tokman says the big mobile-phone manufacturers have set an upper limit on the power consumption of a projector of 1.5 watts. Given a typical phone battery, this would allow a projector to operate for about 2.5 hours, long enough to watch a film. Microvision’s prototype consumes about three  watts at the moment, but Mr Tokman expects this figure to fall as the internal circuitry is concentrated within a smaller number of dedicated chips.”
So Mr. Tokman said in March 2008 that they were already at about 3 Watts in March 2008 and yet about 2 years later when the ShowWX started actually selling, they appear to have gone backwards because the ShowWX that they sold consumed over 5 Watts. Was this a severe rounding error? Or maybe he didn’t count everything that consumed power in the projector. It looks to me that they couldn’t predict the present, no less the future.
I also find that Microvision particularly in their conference calls often talks in what seem to be almost riddles. On direct green lasers they talk about them being less than SGL throwing around almost random “X’s” and “Y’s” and percentages but never give any real idea as to whether they will be cost effective, and just as importantly, when they will be lower in cost (in semiconductors, you have to know the price, volume, and date to have anything meaningful).
Let’s look at some of the similar riddles they gave on power in their “Microvision, Inc. Q2 2008 Earnings Call” on August 5, 2008:
Alexander Tokman, “First, let me talk about power consumption. The power consumption of the latest version of the MEMS scanner has been reduced by approximately 75% over the previous version initially shown about a year ago. What is the significance of this reduction? Let me give you the big picture. The cell phone manufacturers told us that the target spec for the overall power consumption for the embedded Pico Projector which includes MEMS scanner, light sources, ASIC optics and other components should not exceed 1 ½ watt.
And more numbers riddles in their Q1 2008 Microvision, Inc. Earnings Conference Call – 24-APR-08
“ALEXANDER TOKMAN: Again, excellent question. Let’s start with the application requirement. What the application requirement calls for, based on the direct user feedback and the OEM feedback we have solicited to date is that accessory device must function on its own for 2.5 hours without recharging. And 2.5 hours obviously comes from watching a long movie. That’s what our target is. The SHOW prototype that we demonstrated could function without recharging for 1.5 hours. So we are reducing the ultimate power of this device by 40%. I think we were talking about five more during CES so if you subtract 40% it will get you somewhere around sub three watts. On the accessory. Obviously, embedded targets are much more aggressive than this.”
I guess all those percentages made it sound real and important. And in the second quote again that they had 3 Watts in 2008 and yet the product they actually sold nearly two years later consumed over 5 Watts.
From Q3 2007 Microvision, Inc. Earnings Conference Call – 01-NOV-07:
Alexander Tokman – “Recall that we said we want to target [access] rate for 2.5 hour continuous operation without recharging, and we targeted the embedded module for the first generation to be 1.5 watts, which is what cell phone manufacturers have expressed to us for all of us to be successful.”
Finally the earliest reference to their LBS consuming 1 to 1.5 Watts I found was back in 2007 in Microvision’s Blogspot 2007-05:
Alex Tokman: “we are targeting an engine that will draw 1.5 watts of power, going down to 1 watt. So we feel we’re on the threshold of getting inside the cell phone. Although other people are claiming that they’re capable of doing this, we feel good about our position for this specific application.”
So 3 and a half years later, how is Microvision’s sooth saying?