Microvision eyes consumer market

Microvision eyes consumer market

Bothell-based Microvision Inc. sees great potential for display technology products that are a hit with the U.S. military.

By Eric Fetters
Herald Writer

BOTHELL - Imagine watching a film in wide-screen format with stunning resolution and color just by putting on a device that doesn't look much different than an average pair of sunglasses.

That's the future Microvision Inc. sees, and it announced a shift at the top management ranks Thursday that could help the Bothell developer of display technologies focus on the lucrative consumer electronics sector.

Rick Rutkowski, Microvision's chief executive officer, announced the hiring of a GE Healthcare executive as company president, allowing the former president to head the company's consumer efforts.

Alexander Tokman, who also will serve as the company's new chief operating officer, most recently was general manager of GE Healthcare's global molecular imaging and radiopharmacy division. As of July 18, he will replace Steve Willey, who has been Microvision's president for the past three years.

Willey will now be the company's president of consumer solutions, focusing on the high-volume electronics sector.

"It happens to be a market about which I'm really passionate," Willey said.

For the past several years, Microvision has sold its Nomad augmented vision device, which uses retinal-scanning technology, primarily to military and specialized industrial users. It also has signed development deals with a range of companies to work on potential new display products.

But the catalyst for the company's interest in entering the consumer electronics realm came just this year. In March, the company revealed development of a new display system that uses low-cost light-emitting diodes to enable high-definition resolution. The wearable system would give users a big-screen viewing experience at both a cost and size considerably smaller than today's existing virtual reality systems, Rutkowski said.

"This, for the first time, promises 3-D, high-definition resolution with stunning colors in a package that's within the reach of consumers," he said, adding that the company plans to unveil more details later this year.

"And it's coming at a time when these portable media devices are proliferating."

Such a system could be contained in a package that's about the size of sunglasses, Willey said. That would be even smaller than the company's relatively compact Nomad system.

Investors generally cheered the company's shift in presidents. Microvision's stock gained 42 cents, or nearly 8 percent, to close at $5.74 a share.