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Unwired: The tiny screen problem

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.

10 comments:

At December 12, 2006 at 3:37 PM Anonymous said...

I smell a blockbuster show in the making. This gang at mvis in my opinion is taking a page out of Apples play book! Very secretive laid back and then blow their competition out of the water in a spectacular blaze of glory!

 
At December 12, 2006 at 3:40 PM Ben said...

that's the spirit! ;-)

 
At December 12, 2006 at 5:11 PM Anonymous said...

hi ben, got a question..
what is the business relationship between MVIS and Fraunhofer Institute in Germany?

Is it confirmed that MVIS will be at the CES for sure?

thanks for the good work... your blog is wonderful... i enjoy it in both the good and tough times...

 
At December 12, 2006 at 5:54 PM Anonymous said...

Ben, Are you aware of this company and do you consider them future competition?

TIA..

http://www.engadget.com/2006/12/12/lumus-optical-unveils-microdisplay-packin-designer-glasses/

 
At December 12, 2006 at 6:30 PM Anonymous said...

I'm still a bit unclear on that Lumus display, does it project the image directly to the retina, similar to Microvision's tech?

 
At December 12, 2006 at 11:05 PM Anonymous said...

hi Ben,

is the CES an invitation only event?
The CES 2007 website does not list MVIS in the exhabitor list, this is interesting....
got any idea? thank you
keep up with the great work.

 
At December 12, 2006 at 11:49 PM Anonymous said...

Not having a booth would be bad for MVIS-- no two ways around it.

The cheesy hotel room is not good enough.

Hopefully you guys can take footage and post it on the web.

 
At December 13, 2006 at 9:11 AM Ben said...

Here are some answers to your questions:

1. Regarding Fraunhofer & MVIS relationship: Microvision and Fraunhofer Renew Research and Development Relationship

2. Regarding CES, we will be showing our next generation PicoP and IPM designs at an invitation-only suite during the CES show in Las Vegas in January. Our goal is to demonstrate our new IPM to prospective OEM customers, and we're certainly excited about what we have to show. We'll also have an event for our investors to see our new technology. In order to achieve our goals at the show, we don't require a booth on the show floor.

3. Regarding Lumus, I'm definitely aware of them. Since I haven't seen their product first-hand, I can't really comment too much on what they've got. It's interesting, for sure.

 
At December 16, 2006 at 5:11 AM Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,
Great job on the blog, appreciate all that you are doing. My question is if MVIS is still working on a retinal scanning display. I know it is the same technology, but in a previous post, you commented that the eyeglass form factor that you are working on will scan it onto the glasses. The MVIS website does not show the camera display which was of the retinal scan variety. Please give us an update on how and if MVIS is planning on using the IPM in retinal scanning applications.

 
At January 5, 2007 at 2:03 PM Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

I've been researching your stock lately and ran into this site. I never found crouched over watching TV on a 2" cell phone screen very appealing. But Your PicoP sure makes a lot of sense.

What I'd like to know, if you can reveal the information, is what your targeted price will be for adding the projector into a cell phone. I have no doubt anything under $20 to the consumer would be a no-brainer. But $100-$200 is a different matter. Can you give a range of what your targeted mass-produced price range is?

Thanks

 

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