I'm taking a couple days off from work & blogging to spend with the family. Talk to you soon!
I've been thinking over the last few days about writing a MVIS 2006 'Year in Review' blog post. I pretty quickly realized that it would be probably take a book rather than a blog post to do justice to the amazing transformation of the company that has taken place over the last 12 months. But, I can sure put things in a nutshell, as far as I see it at least.
We have a:
New Board of Directors
New Management Team
New Business Strategy
New IPM Platform Technology
New World-Leading Development & Manufacturing Partners
New Miniature Green Laser Initiative
New Color Eyewear Initiative
New Tier 1 Automotive HUD Partner
New Helmet Mounted Display Contract
New World’s Smallest Full-Color Laser Projector
New $35M Funding
New Analyst Coverage
New Redmond, WA Headquarters
Not to mention a new Product Manager for Color Eyewear. I've been an employee of the company for about three months now, and it's been a pretty amazing experience. After having watched so closely from the outside for so long, and trying my best to influence things to whatever degree I could, it's very exciting and gratifying to be able to get out of bed in the morning and come in here and focus my energy to push this thing forward.
Having been in touch with so many of our shareholders over the time I've been writing this blog, and being a shareholder myself, I always think about the activities we’re undertaking in the context of the value they will create for shareholders. But beyond the monetary value we hope to create, there is a sense of mission and purpose here – we realize that the technology and products that are being developed here have the potential to change the world in a fundamental way. Our projectors for mobile phones are intended to inspire and delight people, and allow personal mobile content that's currently constrained to a small screen to be projected as big as life, anywhere. Our work on automotive head-up displays is targeting improved driver safety and awareness that should ultimately save lives. Our efforts to provide see-through helmet mounted displays to our men and women in harm’s way are designed to improve their safety and effectiveness in the harshest and most dangerous conditions. Not least, we’re excited about the progress we’re making on Color Eyewear displays, and intend to deliver personal visual experiences that are unique and compelling, and elevate the usability and potential of mobile devices beyond what’s possible with traditional display technology.
We know we have something really special here in this company. What's important to realize is that the fundamental building blocks that are required for this company to be successful, including the new management, new board, new strategy and new technology platform, have been put in place during 2006. That part of the rebuilding effort is in the rear view mirror now. 2007 and beyond will be dedicated to executing the business strategy that was defined early this year and enabled through the building blocks highlighted above. We’re totally focused on bringing our IPM platform technology to market, inside exciting new OEM products that meet significant unmet market needs. We believe that digital information and personal media should be pervasive, portable and uncompromised. We think the rest of the world is coming around to our way of thinking – and we are excited about the role we can play to bring valuable new applications and compelling new experiences into being.
Thanks for being my wingmen on this awesome journey. I’m really indebted to you all for your contributions for story ideas, your comments and your ongoing encouragement and readership. Stay tuned for what is sure to be an exciting 2007. We expect to put the accelerator to the floor...!
La vidéoprojection intégrée aux téléphones mobiles d'ici 2008
An attempt at the French to English Translation is below:
Technology - The American corporation Microvision has conceived a system of video projection, that can be integrated into a mobile phone or to accessory peripheral devices. This innovation has seduced several Asian groups of electronics companies.
Mobile TVs are already a reality in certain European countries, as in Norway or the United Kingdom, and experimentations have been taking place in France for several months. The video applications (pop videos, athletic retransmissions, vidéocasts and other broadcasting programs), will represent an important part of the leisure market on mobile phones, of which one considers that it will be more than 24 billion Euros to the horizon 2010.
Numerous are those that doubt the interest to look at a broadcasting container on the small screen of a mobile telephone. This is from which the interest of the solution for PicoP, developed by the American corporation Microvision, that will allow a new generation of mobile phones in pocket vidéoprojecteurs.
Microvision has succeeded to integrate within an alone component a body of lasers - bluer, red and green - and a small mirror of a square millimeter that, while moving itself on his axis, can thus project the received light of these lasers on a wall or all other surface. The projected picture then can attain the size of a laptop screen, for a better comfort of vision.
By MAY WON, AP Technology Writer
Watching a wide variety of Web videos from cell phones could get easier thanks to a California startup that lets users design their own video channel lineup for on-the-go entertainment.
Sunnyvale-based mywaves Inc. officially launches its service Monday. It quietly released its test version in October and has been attracting more than 20,000 new users per week since, the company said.
CNN news clips and YouTube videos would be accessible through the service, which works across wireless carriers with high-speed data networks. The mywaves service is free, but users need a data plan with their carrier and must pay for related data-traffic fees.
While Google Inc.-owned YouTube has inked direct deals such as with Verizon Wireless to feature its content through Verizon's V Cast multimedia service, mywaves aims to give users of any carrier the flexibility to choose from publicly available, free video content from across the Web.
Users would download mywaves to their phones, and from its Web site they could browse a directory of video channels that mywaves users have already publicly posted. A "channel" might be a link to online video sites or a specific line of YouTube videos, such as the popular "Ask a Ninja" or "lonelygirl15." Selecting a video channel to go on your personal mywaves mobile program guide takes a few button clicks.
Personal videos taken from a user's cell phone could also be uploaded to mywaves and be broadcast to others or kept on a private channel which the creator could make viewable to others by invitation-only.
From their cell phones, users could check out videos they've placed in their mywaves channel guide. Mywaves also will send text-message notifications of any updated video content if the user wants to know when there's something new to watch.
A growing number of companies are capitalizing on so-called user-generated video entertainment on sites such as YouTube and looking to deliver video content to mobile gadgets.
But no one has yet produced a wide-ranging video package in this easy-to-use channel format, said Ben Bajarin, an industry analyst at technology consulting firm Creative Strategies.
"It's a fresh way to deliver Internet content to a mobile phone," Bajarin said. "But it's very difficult to do what they've done. No one is pushing the mobile barrier like this with user-generated content."
Most of you probably have heard about the giant windstorm that came through the Seattle area on Thursday night.
Our house was without power for the last 3 days, but fortunately for us it kicked back on yesterday. Hundreds of thousands of people in the region are still going by candlelight, and many have trees crashed through their houses, and so on.
Pretty amazing...if you have friends in the area up here, give 'em a call to see how they're doing.
As far as MVIS goes, we're fully operational and all systems go.
REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Microvision (Nasdaq:MVIS - News), the global leader in light scanning technologies for display and imaging products, announced today that it has entered into a joint development agreement with a second leading manufacturing partner. Similar to the development agreement announced in November 2006, this agreement focuses on development of high-volume design for manufacturing of Microvision's proprietary Integrated Photonics Module (IPM(TM)), a tiny display engine suitable for a variety of display applications, including ultra-miniature laser projectors for mobile phones.
Under the agreement, the parties will cooperate to optimize Microvision's IPM designs for high-volume manufacturing. For confidentiality reasons, the name of the manufacturer and other terms of the agreement were withheld. Potential applications for the IPM platform include ultra-miniature laser projectors for embedded or accessory solutions for mobile phones, personal media players, laptops and DVD players. Additional applications include lightweight color eyewear and heads-up displays for automobiles and airplanes. Target customers are major consumer electronics OEMs and large tier 1 automotive integrators.
"We are very excited to be engaged with a second global design and manufacturing partner which brings a unique high-volume optical components development and manufacturing expertise for optimization of Microvision's new proprietary IPM technology," said Alexander Tokman, President and CEO of Microvision. "This agreement positions Microvision well to execute on our commercialization roadmap to bring IPM-based products to market with the right levels of performance, quality and cost for high-volume consumer and automotive applications.
"To be successful long term, it is important to have at least two reliable sources of development and potential supply for our display engine because we intend to serve several large commercial markets with multiple prospective global OEMs."
About Microvision (www.microvision.com)
Headquartered in Redmond, Wash., Microvision Inc. is the world leader in the development of high-resolution displays and imaging systems based on the company's proprietary silicon micro-mirror technology. The company's technology has applications in a broad range of consumer, medical, industrial, professional and military products.
Certain statements contained in this release, including those relating to plans for product development, potential applications and future customers, execution of our business plan and as well as statements containing words like "intends," "will," and other similar expressions, are forward-looking statements that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the company's forward-looking statements include the following: the risk that we will not achieve the expected goals of our development agreement; our ability to raise additional capital when needed; risks related to Lumera's business and the market for its equity; market acceptance of our technologies and products; our financial and technical resources relative to those of our competitors; our ability to keep up with rapid technological change; our dependence on the defense industry and a limited number of government development contracts; government regulation of our technologies; our ability to enforce our intellectual property rights and protect our proprietary technologies; the ability to obtain additional contract awards; the timing of commercial product launches and delays in product development; the ability to achieve key technical milestones in key products; dependence on third parties to develop, manufacture, sell and market our products; potential product liability claims and other risk factors identified from time to time in the company's SEC reports, including the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC. Except as expressly required by the federal securities laws, we undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, changes in circumstances or any other reason.
Friday, December 08, 2006: Storing pictures and video on a handheld device is a common feature, but viewing them on its small screen isn't exciting enough. However, this concern might soon be solved as Microvision, a US-based company, is planning to launch a microprojector, small enough to be integrated with a mobile or iPod, at the Consumer Electronics Show next year.
The device is composed of semiconductor lasers and a tiny mirror. According to the company, the biggest challenge it posed was to create a syncronisation between them. All these addressed, the product is now set to be rolled out.
So, how does it work? The projector has two parts: semiconductor lasers of blue, red and green colour, and a mirror-one millimeter across-that tilts on two axes. The lasers shine on the mirror and the mirror reflects the pixel of light onto a wall or other surface. The intensities of the lasers change to produce different colours. When all the three colours are fully bright the colour that emerges is white and when the three colours are dull the colour that emerges is black.
Using this mechanism, the projector paints a scene onto a surface, one pixel at a time, bringing out the required image or video.
Can we reconcile the need for better, bigger screens and greater mobility?
By Richard Leyland
Published: Tuesday 12 December 2006
It's a major battleground for technology vendors in both business and consumer electronics: printers, fax machines, copiers and scanners are converging into the multi-functional device (MFD).
The converged mobile phone has been a roaring success and the humble handset can now include a 5 megapixel camera, MP3 player and FM radio. The ultra-mobile PC is bridging the gap between smart phone and laptop. The video iPod is well established. The Sony Mylo is the handheld media player which your children covet, with wi-fi, Skype and instant messaging built in, reaching our shores during 2007. Apple has the IT world holding its breath braced for the possible arrival of the iPhone.
Advances in wireless technology, particularly the emergence of wi-fi and 3G, have provided added impetus to device convergence, as we seek the most convenient tools to carry with us. In the future, mobile WiMax promises to envelop whole cities in ultra-fast wireless coverage, moving us towards 'always-on' ubiquitous connectivity.
As our converged devices have become smaller, tech vendors have been battling some weighty but very basic problems: computing power has been limited, battery life has been poor, keyboards have been small and difficult to use, and the screens as they get smaller have become hard to read and even harder to interact with.
So what is being done to address this screen size problem?
One solution is to switch to projection: throwing an image against whatever surfaces are available. Today's projectors are generally bulky, immobile boxes, inefficient at projecting over short distances. Projectors are becoming smaller, with a wide variety of the optimistically named 'pocket projectors' now available, but these are still totally unsuitable for true mobility.
Now the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has created a video projector the size of a match box, designed for mobile phones, PDAs and laptops. The miniature projector is just 16mm by 9mm.
Traditional projectors use millions of tiny mirrors to project the image but this prototype projector uses a single tiny mirror. A laser is fired at this mirror which vibrates at high frequency and reflects the laser, forming the image. At present the projector can only produce red and blue, as green laser diodes aren't yet small enough to fit the tiny housing, meaning that images still have a limited colour range.
A benefit of laser-based projection is that it can be used to project onto curved surfaces. True mobile working is an ad-hoc business, and any projector and connected device combination would need to project onto everyday surfaces - in coffee shops, on trains, etc.
Microvision is the exclusive commercial partner of Fraunhofer IPMS for 2D MEMS scanners targeted for display and certain imaging applications. Microvision will be demonstrating our next-generation full-color ultra-miniature Picoprojector during the 2007 CES show in Las Vegas in early January.
By Peter Cohen
A new report from IDC concludes that the mobile entertainment services offered by cell phone service providers aren't proving to be particularly popular with U.S. consumers. The report, entitled U.S. Wireless Teen and Adult Consumer Entertainment Survey, 3Q06: Age, Device Type, and ARPU Segmentation, finds that almost three-quarters of respondents didn't use any data services for their phones beyond messaging.
In recent months and years American cell phone service providers have expanded their service offerings to provide mobile television, music, gaming and other capabilities on new cell phone models, leading some industry analysts to believe, among other things, that cell phones might threaten Apple's dominance in the portable music player space with its iPod and iTunes store. That's proving not to be the case, according to IDC's research, which was based on a survey of more than 2,500 American wireless subscribers and customers.
Steep prices are one of the main reasons, according to survey respondents - 47 percent of those between 18 to 24 years old said that mobile data services are "too expensive."
Mobile messaging services such as Short Message Service (SMS) are more popular, used by almost half of respondents. Only about 20 percent purchased a ring tone, and only about 10 percent bought a graphic, wallpaper or game.
MVIS is dedicated to bringing on the paradigm shift that will make mobile multimedia services worth paying for...
MDB Capital initiates coverage on Microvision Inc. (Nasdaq: MVIS) with a Buy rating and $6 price target. The firm said, "Microvision, Inc. (MVIS) has undertaken a protracted campaign to bring laser-based, scanned-beam displays to market (in a micro form factor) using its single-mirror, micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) expertise as a key differentiator. Now with a dynamic new management team and a focused operating strategy, built around the world's smallest scanned-beam photonics engine, the company seems poised for exciting growth."
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 07, 2006 01:15:02 AM
Here's one nifty addition to your cell phone that will make watching video-clips and pictures a much better experience. It's a mini projector embedded in the cellphone which will allow you to project an image taken on a mobile phone on a wall or board just half a metre away.
The projected image will be the size of a laptop screen. This smart projector, called PicoP has been developed by US-based Microvision. It significantly overcomes the limitations of a small display on the mobile phone. The embedded projector will be great for watching TV on mobile (that should be available in India when 3G services start).
Cellphone-makers like Nokia are looking at integration of such projectors into their phones. The system, composed of semiconductor lasers and a tiny mirror, will be small enough to integrate into a mobile phone or an iPod.
The projector developed by Microvision comprises two main parts: a set of red, blue, and green lasers and a mirror -- one millimetre across -- that tilts on two axes. The lasers shine on the mirror, and the mirror reflects the pixel of light on to a wall or other surface.
The intensities of the lasers change to produce different colours. When all three are pumping out light full blast, the pixel is white. When all three are off, the pixel is black. Other colours are produced from various combinations in between.
Perhaps the only downside is that a phone in 'projector' mode will use about 50% more power than a phone in 'call' mode. The company plans to show the mini projector phone prototype next year. When it is available in the market, do keep a charger handy at all times!
Our site is back up. :-)
Edit: ...looks like there are still a couple bugs being worked out...stay tuned!
It's no secret that the mobile phone is the center of the universe when it comes to consumer electronic devices. Standalone devices such as handheld gaming systems and personal media players will either transform into mobile phones, or have their feature sets incorporated into mobile phones. (It's interesting to note that Nokia is the number 1 seller of digital cameras worldwide.) Pocketable devices with limited or no connectivity are, in my view, rapidly approaching obsolescence.
And mobile phones are expected to continue to incorporate more and more new feature sets and capabilities, better software, bigger screens, and to get thinner and sleeker and stay pocketable.
We all understand the basic premise of the visualization bottleneck -- the mobile phone's processing power, storage capacity and available bandwidth can support really rich multimedia services; but due to the constraints of the 2" LCD screen, real world consideration of design and the ultimate concern with usability, options are limited as to how to deliver a valuable user experience for all that content. The screens as we know them are just too small -- and they can't really get bigger or else the devices grow, lose their design appeal and their place in your pocket.
Microvision is developing two distinct platform technologies, both based on the Integrated Photonics Module, to resolve the visualization bottleneck once and for all; Color Eyewear and PicoP. PicoP is designed for sharing and displaying TV, photos, games, movies and presentations; it enables a shared experience of these kinds of media content by projecting it in brilliant laser color onto walls, ceilings, a sheet of paper or any available surface. We are targeting a form-factor so small and thin that this big-screen projector experience can be embedded into the sleekest cell phones.
Color Eyewear can be considered a highly complementary application to PicoP. Color Eyewear is designed to enable personal viewing experiences rather than shared ones. It is intended to let people engage with the world in a way that they couldn't before, and to give people capabilities and capacities that they wouldn't have without it. The idea is, that information services are becoming pervasive. We need a new way to interact with these services that enhances our mobility and doesn't interrupt it.
I'm interested in 'passive' entertainment as much as anybody (and my cable bill will attest to that!) but that is only part of what fascinates me when it comes to our Color Eyewear platform. What really excites me is the idea of enabling new user-centric experiences. We can envision consumer augmented reality services (AR services) pretty clearly -- based on the user's location and the context of their activity, relevant information is displayed that shows the directions to their destination; the wait time and review scores at nearby restaurants; the 'buddy beacon' that shows where nearby friends are; tourism information that brings the history of places and buildings to life by making it accessible to everyone who's there; advanced mobile commerce services that let you access special offers and discounts for products in your vicinity; real-time mobile blogging that lets you stream videos and pictures of your everyday life as-it-happens to an online site for your friends to share and comment on...the list of potential value-added services is limitless. It includes anything you can conceive of that's enabled by the integration of the internet with locations, objects and people.
And it's not just my imagination, folks. These services are already either deployed or in development at companies and universities around the world. And here, in the world of AR services, the visualization bottleneck isn't really a bottleneck, but a brick wall. I recently blogged an article about Nokia and Stanford's recent collaboration towards the development of augmented reality services -- another article on the same topic is accompanied by a couple of pictures that show a handheld mobile phone screen with a picture of the user's environment, overlayed with augmented reality information (i.e., a metadata layer).
Now think about this with me: you have all the richness and bandwidth and processing power of the human visual system already available to you in order to see the ambient environment that you live in, every second of every day. Now we take all that richness, resolution, color fidelity, the peripheral view, and we shrink it back down to the 2" mobile phone screen that we acknowledge is not adequate even to display video clips! In addition to losing the fidelity of your visual system, you also lose your sense of context -- since you are looking down at your handset, the information isn't really overlayed on the real world anymore -- it's overlayed on a tiny picture of the real world on your handset screen. You have to look down, you should probably stop walking (or at least slow down!), and you aren't really doing what you were doing anymore. Your activity has shifted from engaging in the real world to engaging with your mobile phone display. You then look up to take advantage of the information you referenced on your mobile screen, and repeat when new information is available or needed. This loss of context severely limits the usability of AR services. But this is as far as conventional fixed-pixel displays can take us.
Fortunately, there's a solution. It's clear that AR services will need not only a big-screen display, but a see-through, head-up display in order to be fully realized. A tremendous amount of really exciting work by key players around the world is being done to enable this application, both on the software side and on the device side. We recognize the world-changing potential of these kinds of services and believe that our Color Eyewear display platform, currently in development, will allow the creation of fashionable, lightweight and ergonomic see-through eyewear that tears down the brick wall of usability that's holding back AR services from coming to full fruition.
We recognize and understand the visualization bottleneck that's limiting the ability of the mobile industry to reach its full potential, both in terms of mobile multimedia and emerging applications such as AR services. We see the value that our scanned beam technology can bring to the mobility space, by delivering big, beautiful images in very tiny and thin, low-power packages. To deliver this value for customers, we are focused on leveraging our IPM platform technology into disruptive products like PicoP and Color Eyewear that elevate the mobile experience and enable new mobile markets.
Thanks for your notes the last couple of days letting me know that the MVIS home page is down. I was traveling but called in to see what's what and the word is that it's being worked on presently.
Hope everyone is doing great out there!
Microprojector technology could let handheld gadgets like mobile phones and iPods display big pictures.
By Kate Greene
Mobile devices can store pictures and videos, but viewing them on such a small screen isn't ideal. Microvision, based in Redmond, WA, hopes to solve this problem with a microprojector the company plans to reveal at next year's Consumer Electronics Show. The system, composed of semiconductor lasers and a tiny mirror, will be small enough to integrate into a phone or an iPod, says Randy Sprague, chief engineer at Microvision.
Right now there is great interest in putting projectors in phones. Indeed, major phone manufacturer Nokia is "looking at" different technologies to integrate projectors into mobile devices (see "The Future of Cell Phones"). As the fabrication technology used to make the components of these projectors matures, it is becoming more economically feasible to create a projector small enough to fit into a handheld device, says Microvision's Sprague.
The projector developed at Microvision is composed of two main parts: a set of red, blue, and green lasers made of semiconductor material, such as gallium indium arsenide, and a mirror--one millimeter across--that tilts on two axes. The lasers shine on the mirror, and the mirror reflects the pixel of light onto a wall or other surface. The intensities of the lasers change to produce different colors: when all three are pumping out light full blast, the pixel is white; when all three are off, the pixel is black. Other colors are produced from various combinations in between.
As the lasers flash on the mirror, the mirror gimbals on its two axes, flickering to produce 30 million pixels a second, each illuminating a surface for 20 nanoseconds. Using this laser and single-mirror setup, the projector paints a scene onto a surface one pixel at a time, says Sprague. It does this so quickly that our eyes perceive a static image or a continuous movie.
One of the challenges is to design a rapidly gyrating mirror that can coordinate with the lasers that turn on and off 100 million times a second. "This mirror is thrashing all around, and the lasers are buzzing like crazy," says Sprague, "so you have to synchronize."
Integrated into the Microvision mirror, he says, are silicon mechanical structures that measure strain on the mirror, detecting what position it's in. This information is fed back into the laser modulator--the device that determines when a laser is emitting light or not--and the feedback loop allows the system to constantly adjust, depending on the demands of the projected image.
The mirror, its mount, and the other mechanical components are all made of silicon, putting the projector in a class of device called MEMS (microelectromechanical systems). Sprague says that Microvision developed most of the technology a couple of years ago, but it was waiting for one particular component to become available: a green laser that modulates at the rate required for the projector to work. Only recently have such compact, high-powered lasers become commercially available, he says (see "Ultra-Colorful TV").
Adding a projector to a handheld device, says Ming Wu, professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, could change the way people communicate. Friends might share more movies and pictures, and business professionals who hesitate to pack a bulky projector for a presentation might start using more visuals when they pitch their products, Wu says. "I think it will dramatically change how people will interact with one another," he says. "People won't hesitate to use more image-based communications."
However, some researchers are skeptical that Microvision can pull off a commercially successful microprojector. A prototype is a far cry from a mass-manufactured device that phone makers and consumers will want to buy, says Olav Solgaard, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford. "It's a question of if they can do it reliably and at a reasonable cost," he says. Sprague wouldn't say how much a projector would add to the price of a cell phone.
Microvision expects to release its first products, a stand-alone projector (for media players, cell phones, laptops and other portable devices) and an embedded projector for a smart phone, in 2008. The company has signed a deal with an undisclosed electronics manufacturer in Asia, but the exact timeline for the products depend on the needs of partners and the energy efficiency of the lasers, Sprague says. In an embedded system, he explains, laser-energy efficiency could be a concern: it's expected that projectors made using existing technology would tap a battery fairly quickly. A phone in "projector" mode would use about 50 percent more power than a phone in "call" mode, Sprague says. But over time, he adds, "it will improve to the point where I do believe people will be watching full-length movies from their cell phones."
Nov 30th 2006
From The Economist print edition
Communications: The phone has had a splendid 130-year history. What will it look like in future? Will it even be called a phone?
The telephone has changed beyond recognition since its invention in 1876, and is now both the most personal, most social and most rapidly evolving technological device. So to imagine the phone of the future is also to imagine the future of consumer technology, and its personal and social impact. What mobile phones will look like in a year or two is easy to guess: they will be slimmer and probably will let you watch television on the move. But what about ten or 15 years from now?
The remote control for life
Making such predictions is a dangerous business, but it can also be informative and entertaining. The chances are that phones will not only look very different - they may not even be seen. They may be hidden in jewellery or accessories, or even embedded in the body. They will undoubtedly have a host of additional features and novel uses, and users will probably interact with them in new ways, too. And even if they are still called "phones" - a word derived from the Greek word for voice - making voice calls may no longer be their primary function.
"The cellphone is not a telephone. It is a-I don't know what it is. A communications device? A tool I carry in my pocket?" says Don Norman of the Nielsen Norman Group, a consultancy, and author of "The Invisible Computer", a book that predicts that computers will eventually be so integrated into everyday items that they will vanish. Bruce Sterling, a science-fiction writer whose future caught up with him, and who now writes books about contemporary design and technology, believes phones will be "remote controls, house keys, Game Boys, flashlights, maps, compasses, flash drives, health monitors, microphones, recorders, laser pointers, passports, make-up kits, burglar alarms, handguns, handcuffs and slave bracelets." In short, he believes that the phone will be "the remote-control for life".
One thing that is clear is that phones will pack a lot more computing power in future, and will be able to do more and more of the things that PCs are used for today - and more besides. Mats Lindoff, the chief technology officer at Sony Ericsson, a leading handset-maker, points out that the processing power of mobile phones lags behind that of laptop computers by around five years. Furthermore, studies show that people read around ten megabytes (MB) worth of material a day; hear 400MB a day, and see one MB of information every second. In a decade's time a typical phone will have enough storage capacity to be able to video its user's entire life, says Mr Lindoff. Tom MacTavish, a researcher at Motorola Labs, predicts that such "life recorders" will be used for everything from security to settling accident claims with insurance firms.
Although extrapolating from today's phones by following technology trends can provide some clues about their future direction, the danger with this approach is that it risks overlooking discontinuities in their evolution. For example, if you had been told in 1991 that telephones would double as music-players in 2006, you might have assumed that this would involve some smaller version of CDs. Hard-disk storage was bulky and expensive, and the use of solid-state memory to store music would have seemed outlandish. Similarly, in the era before digital photography, it would have been hard to believe that most phones would also double as cameras. Where would the film go?
No doubt other new functions will be incorporated into phones. But which ones? Given their uniquely personal nature- some people feel naked without their handsets— it seems likely that they might subsume the other two items that are generally carried everywhere, namely wallets and keys. In Japan, phones can already be used to make purchases in shops: a wireless chip in the phone communicates with a special reader at the till. The same "near field communication" chips enable phones to be used as train tickets and office passes, so acting as front-door keys or car keys as well would not be a giant leap. Indeed, the mobile phone may end up acting as a universal controller for other electronic devices of all kinds, suggests Alan Harper of Vodafone, a big mobile operator.
The shape of phones to come
The appearance of mobile phones is certain to change as new features continue to be added. Already, the clear trend in phone design is towards ever greater diversity. The debate over whether the phone would emerge as the digital "Swiss Army Knife" and cram in as many features and functions as possible is over, says Bruno Giussani, the author of "Roam", a book about the mobile industry. Instead, handset-makers now make different devices optimised for particular tasks such as music, photography or e-mail, and combinations thereof. The next step, suggests Stephen Randall of LocaModa, a wireless-services firm, will be a great decoupling, as the screen, keypad and earpiece start to become separate components, or are replaced by other completely new technologies.
Combining all of these components in a single device, as today's phones do, means that keyboards and screens must be small; make them too big and the phone becomes too bulky and ceases to be a device that can be carried everywhere. Separate earpieces, linked to the handset by a Bluetooth radio link, are already growing in popularity. Some users might choose to hook up separate screens and keyboards when needed, such as when answering e-mail or browsing the web. Already, early examples of such technologies exist.
And there are even more elaborate alternatives. Tiny projectors inside handsets could allow walls, tabletops or screens made of flexible materials to be used as displays while on the move, suggests Jeff Wacker, a futurist at EDS, a technology-services firm. Some firms are also developing displays built into glasses, in order to do away with the screen altogether. This approach also makes it possible to overlay information on the real world, which could be useful when giving directions. Your phone might even label people at a party or conference to remind you of their names.
As for input devices, technology exists to beam a "virtual keyboard" onto a flat surface; a separate sensor then tracks finger movements to determine which "keys" have been pressed. But entering data into a phone might ultimately be done not with fingers but with speech—or even directly by the brain. The keypad is a vestige of the rotary dial, which itself is an artefact of the switch from human operators to direct-dialling in the 1920s. Today, numbers are on the wane thanks to the ease with which mobiles can store and retrieve names and the ubiquity of e-mail addresses and other internet-based identity tags, such as Skype names. Phone numbers may become as invisible to users as the underlying internet-protocol addresses of websites are to people surfing the web.
It is one thing to speculate about the technical possibilities of future phones, but quite another to imagine the social consequences. In the 1980s nobody foresaw that mobile phones would become anything more than executive playthings; and the runaway success of text-messaging took the entire industry by surprise. Similarly, the failure of video-telephony is rooted in social rather than technological causes. It is a mistake, in short, to consider technology in a vacuum. Social factors play a crucial role in determining which technologies end up being adopted, and how they are used.
Marty Cooper, known as the "father of the cellphone" for his work in developing the first mobile phones at Motorola, recalls that he only became aware of the device's full potential as a result of actually using it. His secretary called him on his prototype mobile phone as he was getting into his car to drive to a meeting to say that it had been cancelled—thus saving him from a wasted journey. But explaining the benefits of being able to change plans on the fly to potential customers was difficult, he says, so the first phones were marketed instead on the basis that they could make people more productive, by allowing them to work while on the move. But today the idea of "approximeeting"-arranging to meet someone without making firm plans about time or place, and then finalising details via mobile phone while out and about - is commonplace.
Mobile phones have already changed social practices among their users, and seem likely to do so even more in future. The ability to superimpose images and sound upon reality means that future phones will "create layers on our world", says Pierre de Vries of the Annenberg Centre for Communication at the University of Southern California. Users will always be connected, he says, but in concentric circles of conversations and interactions that range from people right next to them to those far away.
"When I try to make predictions, I don't look at what I see in the technical realm, I look at what I see in the social realm," says Mr Norman. He has recently been investigating how children interact with each other and with technology. "They are never alone with their own thoughts," he says. Instead, they listen to music while texting and talking with friends next to them. "We are learning that we never have to be away from people," says Mr Norman.
"Family finders" and services that help users find nearby buddies are expected to drive demand.
By Antone Gonsalves
Nov 28, 2006 06:35 PM
The number of subscribers to personal locator services on mobile phones equipped with global positioning systems is expected to soar from 500,000 today in North America to more than 20 million in 2011, a market research firm said Tuesday.
Driving usage today are such services as "family-finder" options from Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless, and Disney Mobile. But among the most innovative is from youth-oriented mobile operator Helio, which allows users of a Samsung Drift handset to build a buddy list and broadcast their locations to each other for display on GPS-linked maps, ABI Research said.
"Helio's Buddy Beacon is going to be very popular," ABI Research senior analyst Ken Hyers said in a statement. "It's innovative. This is the first service of its kind in North America."
Wireless carriers, however, have been implementing the services cautiously, adding security features to help prevent users from becoming victims of stalkers, Hyers said. "The service concept is strong, but people who use it must be aware of the 'stalkware' implications."
In Asia-Pacific, the number of subscribers of personal locator services, which were first available in South Korea and Japan, is expected to reach 34 million by 2011, ABI said. Similar services are expected to launch next year in Western Europe.
What will mobile phones be like in 2010? Ask Tero Ojanpera, Nokia's chief technology officer, who did the final keynote speech at the Nokia World conference today. And he's not short of ideas:
1. "A navigation device in 2010 will be similar to the N95, but it will deduce information from your calendar, then input the navigation and take you to the place you need to go."
2. "If you're a journalist, you'll be documenting an event like this with your 10-megapixel camera, and you will be taking videos with your HDTV-quality video camera that's embedded in your mobile device."
3. "Say you're starving for your Latte. Your devices finds the various coffee machines for you, sends the parameters of your Latte over the Internet, so that when you walk to that machine, your Latte has been brewed."
But the most interesting idea he floated during his speech was of phones with 100GB of internal memory, containing every single item of media you own - music, films, photos, documents and so on.
"Your whole media will be indexed and there for you to take with you," said Ojanpera, before getting back on a futurology tip. "If you come to Amsterdam, you might film some tulip fields in HDTV video, and then later go to a friend's house and show those videos projected onto the wall, using the projector that's been integrated within your device. All of this will be possible within three years."
"Imagine you want to go to the Van Gogh museum, so you locate it using your device, and then browse through the internet the opening times, and some reviews that people have posted. Once you get there, next to the paintings you can touch tacks with your Near Field Communication-enabled phone to initiate a service that connects back to the internet, and fetches information about the painting, and perhaps reviews by other visitors."
There was also something about sensors embedded in your shoes detecting that it's raining, so sending a message to your phone to direct you to the nearest bus stop, but I think he was getting carried away by this point. I liked another idea though, which Nokia is apparently already doing, of porting internet servers into mobile phone, so your phone can itself act as a server.
"It enables the mobile device not only to access the Internet, but to be accessed," said Ojanpera. "You could store all your documents and pictures that you would like to share in that tiny server, and somebody else can access them if you allow it. This will fundamentally change the information architecture of the internet. And this is happening today. We have put the server into open source, and it is starting to spread."
Icuiti's latest: the VR920 headset
Here's another VR-type headset from Icuiti...it's really interesting to see what other companies are doing in the head-worn display space.
Although it's still to be determined whether this product will be a winner, it's pretty clear to me that the appeal of this product is potentially limited to a relatively small niche market of 'ubergamers'.
Now there are just a handful of comments on the Engadget post for this item so far (link above) -- but you can see that the initial responses basically make fun of the product as if it's something from Star Trek.
So, what can be learned from this?
Maybe a couple of things. The category of headworn displays still has a 'geek stigma' associated with it. While the form-factors and feature sets of products like this are improving, they seem unable to flip the switch that ignites the fascination of the real mass market.
So, what's missing here? Well, super hardcore PC gamers, who would probably be the target market for a product like this, are a relatively small portion of the population. They may not worry about people making Star Trek jokes about them if a device like this really improves their gaming experience -- and maybe this product really would do just that.
But let's face it. In order to become a mass market phenomenon, the entire paradigm of wearable displays as we've known them will probably need a total revolution.
These displays are for sitting in your gaming chair, hooking up to your PC, and going for as close to full-on virtual reality as we can get. The question is, how many people really want to do that? Is the interest level in that activity high in the world out there, generally speaking?
I'm not necessarily convinced of that...yet. I think VR will eventually become compelling for the mainstream market. We can indeed see some pretty exciting precursors in virtuality sites like Second Life and other massively multiplayer online games.
But even if there's no flaw in the design or form-factor of devices like this one, there may just not be the willingness to engage in the types of applications that really leverage the advantages of a display like this. Think about it this way -- most uber hardcore gamers already have pretty expensive widescreen LCD displays to go with their Alienware PCs. In reality, a small, comparatively low-resolution screen that's amplified my magnifying glasses may be a less optimal viewing experience than just continuing to game on with the display they already own.
Now, theoretically the real world is blocked out providing greater immersion in the game world, and the head tracking capability described here could be a big value-add. But I'm not sure if the whole premise isn't slightly off -- or maybe just too early yet.
And yet, there's continuous interest and ongoing pursuit of new and innovative head-worn display solutions, from numerous companies. It seems to be generally accepted that one day, one of these displays will hit the target and ignite a fire of demand in the mainstream -- or at least generate some significant sales.
Without going into too much detail, what I can tell you is that the Color Eyewear displays from Microvision will take a different angle from what you've seen coming from other companies...
Here's what it looked like this morning behind our house...
Being from Boston, I'm pretty well used to massive blizzards. This was the first time that I can remember abandoning my car somewhere in order to make it home, though.
Supposedly this kind of snowstorm is a once-in-a-decade type event up here in the Seattle area. Pretty amazing!
The future of music inspires the future of mobileIf the storage is not on the client device side but instead on a massive server somewhere, and the client device simply streams the content from the server in real-time via high-speed wireless networks, we can imagine this scenario of an iPod with immediate access to all the world's video much sooner than 10 or 12 years out.
By Jo Best
Published: Monday 27 November 2006
The idea of fitting your entire music collection into a single device the size of a packet of cigarettes might have seemed outlandish 15 years ago. But that was before the iPod. Now, one Google exec is predicting the iPod will lead a further media transformation of similar magnitude in the coming decade.
Speaking at the FT World Communications Conference, Nikesh Arora, Google's VP of European operations, told delegates that, in the coming years, the plummeting price of storage and its increasing volume-to-size ratio will give iPods almost unlimited potential to hold music and video.
Arora said, by 2012, iPods could launch at similar prices to those on sale now and yet be capable of holding a whole year's worth of video releases. Around 10 years down the line that could be expanded, creating iPods that can hold all the music ever sold commercially.
He said: "In 12 years, why not an iPod that can carry any video ever produced?" The Google exec said tech is now pursuing a price volume game - searching for the price point at which content will take off for the mainstream.
He added: "It's clearly begun happening," citing iTunes' 99 cent per song download model.
And, Arora believes, mobile is likely to follow the same path. "Mobile is not going to be a different thing," he added - and if the mobile industry is to capitalise on the growth of content, it would be wise to ape the development of the internet.
He said: "The mobile industry has to go through the same phases the internet has gone through... Mobile will have the same learning curve. It would be somewhat foolish to leapfrog the stages the internet went through.
"But before they get there, they will need to satisfy the basic things people are used to doing on the internet."
In 12 years, why not an iPod that can carry any video ever produced?
As a result, the Google VP believes, there will be greater convergence between mobile and internet, as consumers expect to be able to access traditional web content and services on the mobile platform.
Google has already begun to exploit the union by expanding its ad sales business to the world of mobile, after signing deals with operators in Asia and Europe.
The search giant's CEO believes advertising will eventually go on to play a greater role in the mobile industry: eventually doing away with subscriptions in favour of users agreeing to watch targeted advertising.
On the mobile side, you can't argue with these points. It's particularly acute for Google to advocate for web-style open standards on mobile platforms since they could potentially leverage their business into mobile in a spectacularly profitable way -- but the mobile operators are the gatekeepers and have disproportionate power to determine the customer experience in the mobile space. These operators clearly see the value of mobile search and advertising and will either try to navigate around Google to claim that revenue all for themselves, or partner with Google directly as KDDI in Japan has -- since it stands to reason that this is what their users would prefer as a mobile search engine/advertiser.
It's my belief that the dimension of location will allow Google or other mobile advertisers to most effectively target users in the mobile domain. We can conceive of the idea of 'branded space', wherein a person walks through a given area and accesses virtual billboards, coupons and other types of product offerings. While the beginnings of this type of location-enabled 'm-commerce' are establishing themselves in Japan and South Korea, it's pretty wide open here in the US.
It's clear to me that Color Eyewear offers a huge value to these mobile players, since the idea of 'branded space' requires a see-through information overlay on the real world. Holding up a mobile phone to see what new offers come your way as you walk through town is only the earliest approximation of what will be possible looking out a little ways.
Thanks to River_Traveler98.
The Seattle area got hit with a surprise blizzard tonight during rush hour -- I took this photo on my walk after the road home was blocked by numerous stalled cars. Fortunately for me, I was able to get my car to a parking lot near a Starbucks. I left it there, got a triple mocha and set off on a pretty epic hike home.
As luck would have it, I had brought my parka to work for the first time this year. This proved to be an excellent decision.
It was absolutely wild to see the snow pounding down, and all the cars either stuck, stalled or unfortunately crashed. Hiking up and down the hills between work and home, watching the snow fall and watching out for the traffic was a memorable experience. When I got home, my wife and kids were at our neighbor's house, playing with their boys out in the snow. Pretty great.
Nights like tonight you remember for a long time (with fondness, as I was able to avoid any accidents)...and they make the value proposition of a big SUV with traction control pretty inescapable!
Here's a really great comment from my recent post about Color Eyewear that I'd like to do my best to answer...
As someone who's been on the edge on investing in MVIS for quite some time, I'm also interested to know just how good the core technology is, as in does it blow everything else out of the water? Living in Europe, I obviously haven't been able to see any prototypes for myself.
There must be a big difference between what Microvision and companies like eMagin are doing. They're basically just using tiny LCD screens, right? The question is, will Microvision's Color Eyewear provide a viewing experience comparable to or even transcending television? The resolution would have to be HD, not to forget great contrast and field of vision.
I'd just like to have some kind of an idea of where Color Eyewear in its present form stands, qualitatively, when compared to other ways of getting information into the human visual cortex. Also, what can we expect in the future, say the next five years?
Thanks for this question. There are some big differences between what Microvision is doing and what every other display company is doing. The most fundamental being that we are scanning beams of light temporally and spatially to create a virtual image. There is no screen with our technology, just beams of light that are moving at very fast speeds and appear to create a persistent image on your field of view.
At the heart of our technology across all of our product initiatives is the Integrated Photonics Module, which is a tiny projector engine that contains red, green and blue lasers, electronics, optics and a MEMS scanner in an ultra-thin package. The same IPM components and packaging (with some amount of reconfiguring) can be leveraged across the MicroHUD (automotive and aerospace head-up display), PicoP (embedded or accessory full-color ultra-miniature projector) and Color Eyewear (lightweight fashion eyewear with embedded display) product lines.
So, the IPM is key to our strategy and to our competitive advantage. Every other display technology has a physical, fixed-pixel substrate that is so big by so tall and takes up real estate in the real world. As the mobile phone has eclipsed and subsumed all other forms of consumer electronics, the need is becoming acute to deliver a big screen experience without compromising the small, thin, pocketable form-factors that really drive demand for new models of cell phones.
Now there are technologies that unfurl displays from inside a tube, and there are other things like this that we pay close attention to. But we feel that the ultra-miniature laser projector is the most elegant way to get big experiences into super-compact form-factors. And there is strong market pull for our solutions that tells us we're on the right track.
Another key to our competitive advantage is that we use spectrally pure lasers. Lasers can be bright enough for viewing in all ambient lighting conditions, unlike LCDs, and they enable us to display an extremely wide color gamut.
As I mentioned in my prior post, we intend to couple our IPM with a new optical design that will allow us to assemble lightweight, fashionable eyewear with an integrated, embedded display engine, in both see-through and immersive configurations.
We believe that technical and performance specs are extremely important to creating a valuable user experience -- and just as important are the ergonomic, fashion and usability concerns that have inhibited adoption of other forms of wearable displays. We'll meet these concerns head on by innovating and taking into account the real-world needs of customers, whether they be videogamers or cell phone users, or industrial workers. The focus will always be on usability and having a holistic view of the user experience of the entire product -- the union between the eyewear hardware and the content/application software infrastructure.
Over the coming weeks, we'll unveil our newest IPM design at CES in Las Vegas. At the same time, we're also working on a contract for the government that is bringing us closer to a see-through display solution with a form-factor of a pair of fashion eyewear.
Looking out over the next five years, we expect to have Color Eyewear successfully launched across a variety of segments, in a variety of configurations. We also expect the same IPM that powers Color Eyewear to power head-up displays in a variety of cars and for our PicoP personal projector to be designed into mobile phones by the leading handset OEMs.
Now, a lot of work has to be done to get us there, and there are no guarantees of success in any high-tech endeavour. But we feel a lot of confidence about the path we're on and about the value we can bring to anyone who needs a big display in a compact form-factor.
As I'm sure you've noticed, MVIS Blog has a new look. I hadn't updated the basic template since I started this site back in 2004, and I thought it was time for a change.
I'm adding a sidebar with links to some of my favorite industry sites (more to come soon), and the comments will now appear in a pop-up window rather than at the end of posts.
Anyway, what do you guys think of the new look?
Edit: Hey, looks like it's working now in IE as well.
Last week I was promoted to Product Manager, Color Eyewear. I'll be leading cross-functional teams to bring Color Eyewear to market, ensuring synergy between our government wearable display programs and our commercial display platforms, and working to lay the groundwork for successful launches of Color Eyewear across a variety of targeted markets.
I'm thankful for this opportunity and want each of you to know that I will work diligently to ensure that Microvision leverages our rapidly developing and unique wearable display platform into many exciting high-volume opportunities.
We believe that the combination of our Integrated Photonics Module with our proprietary ultra-thin optical designs will yield breakthrough eyewear displays that will allow us to address multiple large and growing market segments. We expect to provide inexpensive, high-performance Color Eyewear that makes a real difference in people's lives and enhances the value and usability of digital services across a variety of industries.
Dear Microvision Shareholder:For additional information on the Special Meeting of Stockholders, click the link above for the full Form 14A.
The Special Meeting of Shareholders of Microvision, Inc. (the "Company"), will be held at the Redmond Inn, 17601 Redmond Way, Redmond, Washington 98052 on January 18, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. for the following purposes:
1. To approve an amendment to the Company's Certificate of Incorporation to increase the number of authorized shares of common stock; and
2. To conduct any other business that may properly come before the meeting and any adjournment or postponement of the meeting.
Details of the business to be conducted at the meeting are more fully described in the accompanying Proxy Statement. Please read it carefully before casting your vote.
If you were a shareholder of record on November 27, 2006, you will be entitled to vote on the above matters. A list of shareholders as of the record date will be available for shareholder inspection at the headquarters of the Company, 6222 185 th Avenue NE, Redmond, Washington 98052, during ordinary business hours, from January 8, 2007 to the date of our Special Meeting. The list also will be available for inspection at the Special Meeting.
AMENDMENT TO THE COMPANY'S CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION
The Company's Certificate of Incorporation currently permits the Company to issue up to an aggregate of 98,000,000 shares of capital stock, consisting of 73,000,000 shares of common stock and 25,000,000 shares of preferred stock. On October 24, 2006, the Company's Board of Directors unanimously approved an amendment to the Company's Certificate of Incorporation to permit the Company to issue up to an aggregate of 150,000,000 shares of capital stock, consisting of 125,000,000 shares of common stock and 25,000,000 shares of preferred stock. The text of the proposed amendment is set forth below.
As of November 21, 2006, there were approximately 42,967,000 shares of the Company's common stock issued and outstanding and approximately 25,602,000 shares of common stock reserved for future issuance under the Company's outstanding options, warrants and convertible securities. Thus, approximately 4,431,000 authorized shares of common stock currently remain available for issuance.
The Board of Directors would like to increase the number of authorized shares of common stock to provide the Company with flexibility to issue shares of common stock for general corporate purposes, which could include, among other uses, financings, strategic partnering arrangements, equity incentive plans, acquisitions of assets or businesses, stock splits or stock dividends. The availability of additional authorized shares of common stock would allow the Company to accomplish these goals, and other business and financial objectives, in the future without stockholder approval, except as may be required in particular cases by the Company's charter documents, applicable law or the rules of any stock exchange or other system on which the Company's securities may then be listed. In addition to the more traditional uses described above, the Company could issue shares of its stock as a defense against efforts to obtain control of the Company. The Board of Directors does not intend or view the increase in authorized shares of stock as an anti-takeover measure, nor is the Company aware of any proposed or contemplated transaction of this type.
If this proposal is approved, the newly authorized shares of common stock would have the same rights as the presently authorized shares, including the right to cast one vote per share of common stock. Although the authorization of additional shares would not, in itself, have any effect on the rights of any holder of the Company's common stock, the future issuance of additional shares of common stock (other than a stock split or dividend) would have the effect of diluting the voting rights and could have the effect of diluting earnings per share and book value per share of existing stockholders. If this proposal is not approved, the Company would be limited in its ability to respond quickly to opportunities to engage in various transactions involving issuances of common stock, such as financings, strategic partnering arrangements, equity incentive plans and acquisitions of assets or businesses.
If approved, the first paragraph of Article IV of the Company's Certificate of Incorporation will be amended to read in its entirety as follows:
"The total number of shares of capital stock which this corporation shall have the authority to issue is one hundred fifty million (150,000,000) shares, consisting of (i) one hundred twenty five million (125,000,000) shares of common stock, $.001 par value ("Common Stock") and (ii) twenty five million (25,000,000) shares of preferred stock, $.001 par value ("Preferred Stock")."
Approval of this amendment to the Certificate of Incorporation requires approval by a majority of the outstanding shares of Common Stock. As a result, abstention and broker non-votes will have the same effect as a vote against the proposal. Holders of shares of the Company's common stock do not have appraisal rights under Delaware law or under the governing documents of the Company in connection with this solicitation.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS A VOTE "FOR" THE APPROVAL OF THE AMENDMENT TO THE COMPANY'S CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION.
We know of no other matters to be voted on at the Special Meeting or any adjournment or postponement of the meeting. If, however, other matters are presented for a vote at the meeting, the proxy holders (the individuals designated on the proxy card) will vote your shares according to their judgment on those matters.
Labels: Board of Directors
Nokia's head of R&D discusses technology that could shape the look, feel, and function of mobile devices in the next few years.
By Kate Greene
The face of the phone is going to change, according to Bob Iannucci, head of the Nokia Research Center (NRC), in Helsinki, Finland. The NRC is hard at work, along with other branches of Nokia, on software and hardware for future cell phones.
While your current model might seem like the digital version of a Swiss Army knife, Iannucci sees lots of room for improvement. Novel displays and myriad coordinated radios could make your cell phone a lot more entertaining and useful.
Last week, Nokia announced a new research lab and collaboration with Stanford University. Technology Review caught up with Iannucci in Palo Alto, CA, to ask him how Nokia's research is pushing mobile devices forward.
Technology Review: Your job, as the head of Nokia's research center, is to imagine the mobile devices of the future and to use existing and future technology to make it happen. From this standpoint, what new technology do you predict could be in phones five years from now?
Bob Iannucci: One of the things that we're intrigued with is the potential for what nanoscience and nanotechnology can bring to phones. Here's an example: right now, we're very close to having 8 radios and 11 antennas in a cell phone. In a couple of years that'll be commonplace. Now the question is, as a manufacturer of phones, how do we simplify 8 radios and 11 antennas? Well, the holy grail of simplifying radios is software-defined radio, where a radio, controlled by software, uses a broadband antenna to access a wide range of frequencies, instead of a single band. We're looking at material-science solutions on the antenna side to make software-defined radio happen.
TR: Like what?
BI: At Chalmers University, in Sweden, researchers have demonstrated, using carbon-nanotube technology, a tunable radio-frequency cavity that, in just the first version, can tune in between two and three gigahertz, picking up multiple bands. So now the idea of taking the antenna and running it through a tunable carbon-nanotube filter into an analog/digital converter might be a key enabler to actually making software-defined radio work. That's breakthrough thinking. That could be an enabler to making that 8 radio, 11 antenna thing a whole lot simpler.
TR: How would this affect the average mobile-phone user?
BI: It boils down to simplicity in cost. If we can drive down the cost by simplifying the guts inside the phone without compromising the functionality, then that's big. And software-defined radio could also enable cognitive-radio capabilities, where two devices dynamically create the best wireless channel for transferring data. This would make it possible to transfer a movie from your PC to your phone in two seconds. The idea is that the radios in my PC and phone realize when they're close to each other because the signal strength is high. So we can use very weak signals because we're only covering a short distance. We can reduce power, increase the bandwidth, but not create a tremendous amount of interference because we're only transmitting at low power. And the radio's smart enough to figure all that out.
TR: Nokia recently announced a new short-range wireless technology called Wibree. It's like Bluetooth, which is used for headsets, but Wibree uses less power. How else is it different from Bluetooth?
BI: It's the same radio-frequency hardware, the same antenna, and the same baseband processing as Bluetooth. The only difference is, there are a few changes in the digital logic. So the cost of adding Wibree to a Bluetooth chip set is a few cents, and a person has both capabilities in their phone.
TR: Why would someone want Wibree on his or her phone?
BI: Wibree is designed for short-range communication, and it could enable a phone to act like a node in wireless-sensor networks. The phone would have more power and processing capabilities than the other sensors, so as well as collecting information about the environment, like pictures or location information, it could also aggregate data from nearby sensors, process it, and send information to other sensors and phones via Wibree and cellular or Wi-Fi networks.
TR: When do you think we'll start to see the fruits of this sensor-network research?
BI: There are a couple of companies that have come out of the early work, and there are other companies that are starting to spring up, so I think there are going to be real commercial applications very soon--within the next year.
TR: What do you see as something new in user designs in the next couple of years?
BI: Making the shapes that we're familiar with more adaptable. For instance, the buttons could go away and get replaced with other things so that the device adapts more to the application, instead of trying to funnel every function through a zero-through-nine keypad. It's really pretty intriguing. What a user sees when he or she looks at the face of a phone is going to change in two years. It won't look like it looks right now.
TR: What about the display? At TR, we've covered research on projection technology for phones (see "High-Definition TV from Your Cell Phone"). That could really change how people share information from phones.
BI: It hasn't escaped our notice. There are a couple technologies that exist today that could be used in large-format displays that you can carry around. Why is that important? Because most of the world's information is authored for a 1,024-by-768 screen, and we've got to deliver an equivalent experience if we want to make the claim that we've really brought the mobile Internet to life.
TR: How soon do you think projectors could be available in mobile devices?
BI: The technology is close; we're looking at it. Believe me, I'm number one in the queue to get mine. Just imagine, as a business traveler, being able to open up your phone in a hotel room and have real-time video conferencing with the image projected on the wall and stereo sound. We're not far.
By John P. Mello Jr.
11/21/06 9:14 AM PT
"In the future, we will not be getting information principally or exclusively through looking at a computer screen, but by looking at something that's in the real world and a display that's integrated with that," Henry Fuchs, a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina, told TechNewsWorld.
Virtual reality has been a rich vein of computer science for fiction writers and movie makers, but its less heralded cousin, augmented reality (AR), may have a greater influence over how we lead our daily lives in the future.
AR overlays the virtual world on the real world in real time. While virtual reality attempts to insulate itself from the real world, augmented reality extends the virtual world into the real one.
The Fat Yellow Line
A common use of AR is in TV sports, such as the yellow line marking a first down in football games, visible to TV viewers but not to players or fans at the game. So, too, is the use of "blue screen" technology to project advertisements on backstops behind batters at baseball games.
"In the future, we will not be getting information principally or exclusively through looking at a computer screen, but by looking at something that's in the real world and a display that's integrated with that," Henry Fuchs, a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina, told TechNewsWorld.
"What augmented reality will do is unify the real world with the computer display of it," he added.
Although the computer science community has maintained its interest in virtual reality over the years, AR's road to development has been a rocky one.
"Virtual reality has made some progress in game applications and virtual design, but augmented reality is entirely different," Rolf R. Hainich, author of The End of Hardware: A Novel Approach to Augmented Reality, told TechNewsWorld.
"It hasn't made progress," he continued. "People abandoned the field years ago. It's just recently that it's been rediscovered."
Hyperlinking the Real World
Part of that rediscovery may be related to the rapid development of the cell phone, which is considered a very promising area for AR technology, as a team of researchers at Nokia (NYSE: NOK) demonstrated last month at the fifth International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The team from Nokia's Mobile Augmented Reality Applications (MARA) project has created a prototype phone that actually makes objects in the real world hyperlink to information on the Internet .
Using the phone's built in camera, a user can highlight objects on the mobile phone's LCD and pull in additional information about them from the Internet.
Moreover, by altering the orientation of the phone, the display will toggle between live view and satellite map view. In map view, nearby real world objects are highlighted for convenient reference.
Mobiles Ripe For AR
Cell phones appear to be ripe for early AR applications, according to Steven K. Feiner, a computer science professor at Columbia University.
Not only are cell phones becoming cheaper and more powerful, he noted, but they combine hardware components that support AR applications, such as digital cameras, global positioning (GPS) sensors, and wireless Internet connections.
"AR applications for cell phones are near-term," he told TechNewsWorld. "If you know where you are with things like GPS , you can do a quite decent job of adding additional information.
"GPS, at least the kind that normally gets put into cell phones, is not amazingly accurate," he observed. "We're looking at being off by many, many meters."
No More Guidebooks
However, he continued, when using the camera in the phone and a database of geocoded imagery, the GPS readings can be corrected to produce a more accurate indication of a user's location.
"That enables you to overlay information on what you're seeing in a very precise way," he said. "If I'm a tourist, I can walk around and see the hours for a museum, a restaurant's menu or historical information about a building without having to pull out any of a variety of guidebooks and look things up in them."
Although much of the technology exists to make many AR applications a reality, other factors will determine when and if AR products will reach consumers, according to Feiner.
"The availability of a lot of these technologies depends less on technology decisions than marketing decisions," he maintained, "decisions made by people with MBAs rather than technologists."
Nokia researchers are working on a system that allows physical objects to be identified and connected to the Internet through mobile-phone screens.
By Kate Greene
MIT Technology Review
A Nokia research project could one day make it easier to navigate the real world by superimposing virtual information on an image of your surroundings. The new software, called Mobile Augmented Reality Applications (MARA), is designed to identify objects viewed on the screen of a camera phone.
The Nokia research team has demonstrated a prototype phone equipped with MARA software and the appropriate hardware: a global positioning system (GPS), an accelerometer, and a compass. The souped-up phone is able to identify restaurants, hotels, and landmarks and provide Web links and basic information about these objects on the phone's screen. In addition, says David Murphy, an engineer at Nokia Research Center, in Helsinki, Finland, who works on the project, the system can also be used to find nearby friends who have phones with GPS and the appropriate software.
The field of augmented reality, in which supplementary information from a computer or the Internet is overlaid onto the real world, has been the topic of science fiction and serious academic and military study for years. Historically, augmented-reality systems have required small backpacks with computing and networking hardware that stream information onto a visual display. But in recent years, researchers have been experimenting with more consumer-friendly ways to augment reality.
Mobile phones, in particular, are an appealing gateway to the virtual world. Their computing capabilities have increased substantially, and a growing number are GPS-enabled and can access high-speed data networks.
For the MARA project, Murphy and Nokia researcher Markus Kähäri outfitted a Nokia 6680 mobile device with a box containing extra hardware: a GPS sensor to determine the location of the phone, a three-access accelerometer to determine the orientation of the phone's camera (which could be directed at a building or the ground, for instance), and a compass .
Once the phone is in camera mode and capturing a video stream, Murphy explains, MARA pulls together the information from the three sensors to pinpoint the location and orientation of the phone. The software then scours a database of objects--which can be loaded onto a phone or can be accessed through a network connection--to determine which object would be visible to the camera. Once visibility is determined, MARA highlights the objects and provides extra information and hyperlinks if available. So, if a nearby restaurant is in the database and within view, the software could display the menu and wait time, and by clicking on the hyperlink, you could visit the restaurant's website.
This capability becomes particularly compelling when people, as well as buildings, are incorporated into the database. If you have a GPS sensor in your mobile device and elect to share your location, Murphy says, people could "click on you to link to your blog." He adds, "You could go to a football match and be able to see information on the players, or ball movement, or tactics by looking at the field with your device."
MARA has an additional feature, says Murphy. To access a satellite view of your location and nearby landmarks, simply point the phone's camera at the ground. The software infers the orientation and displays the map.
Murphy notes that the Nokia project is similar to a commercially available application in Japan by a company called Geovector. The Geovector software lets a person search for businesses near his or her location, and then it provides a series of arrows to direct him or her to, say, a coffee shop. But, Murphy says, the application does not annotate a scene on a mobile screen like MARA does. This see-through annotation makes it possible to view objects on the phone that are purely virtual, he says, like an information marker in the middle of a pavilion, or a work of virtual art overlaid on the side of a building.
Salil Pradan, the chief technologist of RFID at Hewlett Packard (HP), based in Palo Alto, CA, is encouraged that Nokia, a major phone manufacturer, is putting effort into research such as MARA. Pradan worked on a similar mobile-phone project at HP called Websign that began about six years ago but is no longer active. "We always believed that this kind of augmented reality with a cell phone is the way to move forward," he says. "I'm glad to see people like Nokia getting into that space."
Pradan says that the truly interesting applications will arise when the technology is opened up to software developers outside of Nokia so they can modify it to fit their needs.
Letting developers play with a commercial version of technology based on MARA could be feasible, says Murphy. After all, he says, the programming tools are already available for creating location-based applications that use GPS in the Nokia Series60 platform. "Hypothetically, if orientation and heading sensors were also to be embedded in the platform, one could imagine they could be made available to developers in a similar manner," he says.
However, at this time, Nokia has no plans to transform MARA into a commercial product. "Creating a prototype and creating a product are very different things," says Murphy. Some of the challenges are technical: minimizing power consumption in a phone with multiple sensors, and extended use of the camera. And some of the challenges are logistical: addressing privacy issues, and deciding the number and type of objects to maintain in the object database.
If the research did make it into a Nokia product, it would be exciting to see how people would use it, Murphy says. "There are so many possibilities engendered by bringing the Internet to the real world--making people linkable," he says. "It's hard to know what would be done with the technology if it were available."
Cellular carriers are allowing their customers to share software, services, and content from independent companies. Finally.
By Wade Roush
Over the last year, Verizon, Sprint, Cingular, and other carriers have begun to make their decks -- and, perhaps even more important, their billing systems -- accessible to outside companies. The result: just as the explosion in online services began with the emergence of the nonproprietary World Wide Web in the mid-1990s, a new generation of startups is giving cellular subscribers more ways to use their phones' computing capabilities.
And the timing couldn't be better. The Internet is now overflowing with user-generated content -- photos, videos, blogs, wikis, garage-band music. As it becomes easier to transmit this content over cellular networks, the phone -- arguably the first social machine -- is helping to make the "social computing" revolution mobile.
"There are two trends happening here: on the one hand, we have this explosion of user-generated content, and on the other hand we have the mobile operators deploying and diffusing a payment infrastructure," says Mark Donovan, senior analyst at M:Metrics, a Seattle firm that monitors mobile commerce. "Big players like Verizon are embracing partners who sell stuff 'off-deck,' which means I can now purchase content without having to go through the carrier's deck."
That's opened up niches for services such as Rabble, a mobile blogging service, and New York-based Thumbplay, recently rated by market research firm Hitwise as the most popular U.S. retailer of ringtones, games, wallpaper, and other content for cell phones. Customers who pay $9.99 per month for Thumbplay's subscription service go to its website to select content, which is then sent to their phones over the cellular network. So far, Thumbplay has won permission from Cingular, T-Mobile, Sprint, Nextel, and Boost to charge customers through their billing systems; in return, the carriers take a cut of Thumbplay's subscription revenue. Furthermore, many of Thumbplay's ringtones come from independent musicians, rather than the big record labels.
Q121, too, is counting on amateur and user-generated content to drive use of its network. So far, its 50,000 members, mostly in their teens and early twenties, use it primarily to exchange music files, a large number of which were recorded and mixed by the users themselves. Q121 provides an "express signup" page for artists and bands who'd like others to hear their songs or use clips as ringtones. "It's a great jumping-off point for artists creating and distributing their own content," says Stollman. "We encourage that kind of viral marketing activity."
By opening up their networks and billing systems to outside parties, the cellular carriers are recognizing -- and realizing they can profit from -- the desire among users to put their phones to new uses, such as media sharing, says M:Metrics' Donovan. "The areas where we have seen the largest growth [in mobile-phone usage] center around creating, connecting, and sharing -- people taking pictures, capturing video, sending those files to the Web, and chatting through instant-messaging," he says. "Mobile subscribers shouldn't merely be treated as passive consumers."
REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 15, 2006--Microvision (NASDAQ:MVIS), the global leader in light scanning technologies for display and imaging products, announced today that it has entered into an agreement with Network Systems & Technologies (P) Ltd (NeST), a NeST group company, for establishing an offshore development center initially for the engineering design and development of the Company's laser barcode scanner product. Under the agreement, the NeST engineering team will work as an extension of the Microvision product development team in Redmond, Washington on product enhancements and cost reduction.
"The NeST offshore development center should enable us to achieve several important goals consistent with our business strategy," said Sid Madhavan, Vice President of Engineering. "First, we expect quicker response to our customers' requests for feature enhancements and stronger cost position. Second, the relationship with NeST allows us to maintain the focus in engineering on our Integrated Photonics Module (IPM(TM)) platform activities targeted towards high volume products such as miniature laser projectors and heads-up displays for automobiles and airplanes. The NeST software, electronics and mechanical teams will complement our engineering teams to enable round-the-clock development on our barcode scanner and future products. NeST has a strong history of delivering quality products to companies like GE, Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi and we are very pleased to be working with them."
Mr. N Jehangir, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the NeST Group stated, "Our world-class competencies in engineering and manufacturing coupled with process orientation and Six Sigma culture will help Microvision attain reduced time to market at an optimal cost."
Added Mr. Sasi Kumar, who is heading the software division of NeST in Trivandrum, India, "NeST's software division, being focused on leading edge product development, is delighted to add yet another technology innovator to our client list and we are excited about this relationship with Microvision."
About Microvision www.microvision.com
Headquartered in Redmond, Wash., Microvision Inc. is the world leader in the development of high-resolution displays and imaging systems based on the company's proprietary silicon micro-mirror technology. The company's technology has applications in a broad range of consumer, medical, industrial, professional and military products.
About NeST www.nestsoftware.com
NeST, an International Corporate group of over 25 companies employing more than 2000 people worldwide, has a global export business turnover in excess of $200 million. The Group has a strong presence in futuristic Computer & Communication technology areas like Networking, Fiber Optics, RF & Microwave and Software. NeST has many hardware and software facilities spread across Trivandrum, Cochin, Bangalore and Mysore in India and in the USA. All of these units are ISO 9001 certified. The software units of the group operating at Trivandrum and Cochin are assessed at CMM Level 5. Apart from the software development facility in India, the Group has setup a number of world class manufacturing facilities and has established worldwide operations with offices which provides onsite consulting and development services in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom & Qatar.
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