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It's the Physics

Texas Instruments' recent demonstration of a miniature projector has prompted some questions from readers about how Microvision's PicoP stacks up against TI's DLP-based prototype.

Put simply, Microvision is on the path to embed a small, power-efficient projector inside a cell phone. And unless you radically re-imagine what a state of the art telephone is, Texas Instruments can’t embed its projector because of the inherent properties of the DLP technology.

The problems associated with embedding a DLP-based projector into a phone are due to concerns regarding size, heat and power.

Based upon my experience and research into DLP technology, here's why:

For starters, Microvision’s PicoP is significantly smaller, and more importantly, thinner than Texas Instruments’ DLP-based mini-projector. That’s because Texas Instruments’ micro-mirror array needs a single mirror for EACH pixel, which affects the size and thickness of the device. Microvision only needs one mirror, to represent ANY pixel. So, the smaller TI makes its array, the less resolution there is in its final picture. For Microvision, there’s no such limit.

As an example, TI reports that its new projector prototype has 640 x 240 resolution – or ½ VGA (HVGA). Microvision has been showing prototypes with SVGA (800 x 600) resolution – that gives Microvision an advantage of 312% greater resolution. TI could scale up their DLP-based projector to display a greater pixel count, but their entire device would grow in size too. In a nutshell, TI will have to trade resolution for size.

Further, TI’s micro-mirror array size dictates the size of its projection lens. And TI’s projection lens can’t get much smaller –or shorter— without adding visual artifacts. Microvision’s PicoP doesn’t need a projection lens at all. PicoP has infinite focus. And the single mirror is the projector.

PicoP's infinite focus means that you can shine it on any surface, at varying distances, and the image will be crisp and in focus, without having to adjust a dial. By contrast, the TI device will require you to fine tune the focus of the image every time you move your hand.

There are also vast differences in heat and power. Both companies use laser light sources. But Microvision only turns a laser on to create a single pixel including that color. Then the laser nearly instantly turns back off, saving battery power. Meanwhile, Texas Instruments turns on a laser to illuminate the entire array of mirrors. And if a particular pixel doesn’t need that color, this light becomes heat, and is wasted.

For example, imagine a rainbow of primary colors: One third of the picture elements (pixels) are red, one third are blue, and one third are green. TI's device illuminates the entire array with all three colors, even though only 33% of each color is needed in the final image. Two-thirds of the power used to activate the lasers becomes heat, instead of useful light. And for images with lots of black – like starry nights – the power loss is even greater.

Overall, Microvision’s PicoP is significantly more efficient than Texas Instruments in controlling heat and power consumption. These factors, in combination with Microvision’s significantly smaller size, enable Microvision’s PicoP projector to fit and function inside a conventional mobile phone, using the phone’s internal power supply. With Texas Instruments, you need a much larger phone, with a much bigger power supply. And you may need to add a cooling fan.

In short, Microvision’s PicoP is the only device that today is on a path to be embedded into a sleek and thin mobile phone.


At March 30, 2007 at 12:38 PM helden5022 said...

Ben, much appreciation for this. This subjuct is something many MVIS investors have been thinking about lately, as in a situation like this the whole future of MVIS rests on whether or not they are doing something that truly can't be done by a competitor, being TI, Explay etc.

And on that note, if you could do another one like this on Explay, and any other competitors that you might know you have no idea how much I know I would appreciate it, as well as many others.


At March 30, 2007 at 12:47 PM helden5022 said...

Especially since Explay seems to claim infinite focus as well, it seems like Explay's technology might be closer to MVIS' than TI and thus might be the bigger competive threat.

At March 30, 2007 at 12:53 PM helden5022 said...

Ben, if you don't mind me asking, are you an Engineer of any discipline? You sound like a Mechanical Engineer. Just curious.

At March 30, 2007 at 8:11 PM Anonymous said...

Currently the mirror on the MEMS chip draws a picture 30 million pixels per second. Can MVIS alter the speed at witch the mirror vibrates? Can they make it so it vibrates quick enough to draw at a speed of 60 million pixels per second?
Thank very much for the information you provide us via this blog.

At March 31, 2007 at 6:36 AM Anonymous said...

i Ben, considering that the solid state lasers can be switched at multi-gigaherz frequencies, is there a limitation to the MEMS scanner that could prevent support for full 1080p, essentially a 2 million pixels image? DLP can project 1080p because they have 1 mirror for each pixel. Could the MVIS MEMS scanner be modulated to project at that resolutio?
Thank you for your time.

At March 31, 2007 at 7:12 AM Anonymous said...


Be very careful concerning the information you post on this blog. You should be very concerned that Explay is about to outflank MVIS.

At March 31, 2007 at 1:50 PM Anonymous said...

Explay had better be careful about what they do. Remember that Microvision has a very extensive catalog of patents backing up their products. Does Explay??

At March 31, 2007 at 5:39 PM Anonymous said...

Who cares that explay is not nearly as bright as the PicoP.
Who cares that it is much larger than PicoP.
Who cares that explay is only QVGA resolution.
Who cares that they needed a battery the size of a cigarette box.
Who cares that the image size is a fraction of PicoP.
Explay is going to out flank MVIS.
Oh I must have been dreaming.

At April 1, 2007 at 12:36 PM Lars said...

Great post! Keep up the good work!

At April 1, 2007 at 1:02 PM Anonymous said...

Great post.
I hope you all at MVIS will go on the offensive on TI. Thought leadership and branding is one area TI will try to take from MVIS. Doesn't matter which is better in the media unless you take on TI.

At April 2, 2007 at 5:27 AM Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,
Not trying to bash, just curious what your response is to this short review of the PicoP at the recent CTIA show:,130264-page,6-c,cellphones/article.html#

"The idealized image above is quite a bit nicer looking then the current level of the technology, which produces a mediocre image. So mediocre we couldn't get a good snap of it, but you get the idea. And don't expect this technology soon, it's still pretty alpha."

At April 2, 2007 at 10:14 AM Ben said...

It's important to note on the link you provided that PicoP is included in PCWorld's list of "CTIA's Hottest Products and Services", with the subheader "These are the things that had them talking at the big CTIA wireless show."

Likewise, PCWorld's article was picked up by Washington Post and repurposed as CTIA Picks and Pans. PicoP, is of course, a Pick:

"The Projector Phone: Microvision's PicoP demo showed that you can pack a digital projector into a handset the size of a BlackJack phone. Pretty impressive!"

That being said, I spoke to the guys who attended the show and they commented that it is a challenge to display PicoP optimally at extremely brightly lit convention show floors.

Remember, this is a projector, and like any projector, the image competes with the brightness of the ambient environment. We were showing PicoP from about 4 feet from a surface, which makes the image about 32" diagonally. PicoP can display an awesome image on a piece of notebook paper even in brightly lit environments, but as with any projector, as the image size increases (correlating to the distance from the projected surface), the overall brightness of the image is reduced.

I believe the image from PicoP is pretty amazing, especially considering the absolutely thin and tiny size, and targeted low cost and power consumption, consistent with the requirements to be embedded in a mobile phone.

The experience of any image is subjective and I'd encourage everyone who's interested to come up for our shareholders' meeting (which I believe will be scheduled for June) and evaluate PicoP's performance personally.

At April 2, 2007 at 1:29 PM Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben, your comments are always very much appreciated! And I think, you may get an "invasion" from us Yahoos on the MB. ;-) We'll have a better tally as it gets closer, but I would expect many plan to come for the next investors meeting. Everyone's very excited to see the PicoP and other developments. Do you think there will be a demo of your eyeware? Thanks!

At April 3, 2007 at 8:12 AM helden5022 said...

Ben, I was interested in sending you an email and couldn't find a link to your email address. Thanks.

At April 3, 2007 at 9:07 AM Ben said...

helden -- it's at the top of the page: "Contact MVIS Blog".

At April 3, 2007 at 11:14 AM helden5022 said...

lol, thx Ben. Hadn't seen that.

At April 3, 2007 at 3:10 PM Anonymous said...


Did Microvision have anything to do with the BMW film showing a technician working on a car using augmented reality software through coloreyewear?

Thanks for all the great posts.

At April 4, 2007 at 9:47 AM Ben said...

The ONLY way to achieve what is portrayed in the BMW Augmented Reality video is through the use of Microvision technology.


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