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For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only (Full Article)

Excerpted from Full Article by Nick Tredennick and Brion Shimamoto of Gilder Technology Report

"The cell phone is becoming the universal device. It began with voice communication, but now includes the functions of a personal digital assistant, text and data transfer, email, and image capture. Soon, cell-phone users will want standard web-browser functions. Tiny displays cannot offer these browser functions.

The answer to the mobile device’s display problem: don’t use a conventional display. The industry has gotten stuck on imagers that mimic paper. The efficiency of these systems is limited by their format—building a physical display that an observer sees. Microvision has an answer: send the image directly to the retina.

Microvision’s magic is in the idea of only putting energy into the photons that matter (the ones that meet the eye), and it is in its patent-protected MEMS (microelectromechanical system) mirror. The mirror is batch fabricated at a chip foundry, so it benefits from Moore’s-law improvements. As the mirror subsystem shrinks and as the wafers it is made on get larger, the MEMS mirror gets cheaper and more efficient. As it gets cheaper and more efficient, it becomes economically suitable for more applications. As applications proliferate, production volumes increase, which lowers costs as production moves from four-inch to six-inch and then to eight-inch wafers.

...Once early adopters demonstrate the value of these [Nomad] systems, all maintenance is up for grabs. Process monitoring and process control applications will soon follow. Any task that benefits from heads-up access to technical data at the work location is a potential application.

...The third-generation MEMS mirror is a low-cost, free-air version (rather than being an expensive vacuum package). Following the third-generation will be cost-reduced versions for consumer markets. Breakthrough volumes will come with further miniaturization and cost reduction of the mirror subsystem and of the optics that make Microvision’s image generators suitable for consumer applications in cell phones and in digital-camera viewfinders. One image generator for each eye could produce realistic 3D images for gaming, flight simulation, microsurgery, and other applications.

Early prototypes cost $100k. Cost-saving developments brought the first commercial systems below $10k. The next generations will scale costs below $1,000 and eventually below $100, where Microvision’s imagers will be suitable for consumer applications. Microvision’s opportunities aren’t technology limited, they’re development-resource limited."


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