HoloLens 2 Update

Intro to MVIS

1. What is MVIS?

MicroVision is a company based in Redmond, Washington that has invented a technology called MEMS Laser Beam Scanning (often called LBS). This technology combines red, green, blue and infra red laser diodes with one or two tiny mirrors that sweep the lasers back and forth, and up and down to create an image, and sense 3D space. These elements are packaged together along with electronics chips to create a module, similar in size to an Andes thin mint candy.

2. What are the advantages of MVIS MEMS Laser Beam Scanning technology?

In the words of Microsoft's Advanced Optics GM, Zulfi Alum, the advantages are SIZE, WEIGHT, and POWER. Of course, these are the most important advantages for any display technology.

HoloLens 2 Display: The Bigger Picture

ZA: So, lasers are cool they are also the most efficient mechanism by which we can produce light. So, hence that was the right choice. Because of the MEMS approach, as we increase the field of the view the weight doesn’t change. So, it is also lighter than the original design point. So, we are able to maintain our size and power constraints and yet deliver a much larger field of view.

What Mr. Alam did not mention, and in fact no one at Microsoft has ever acknowledged, is that the IP for MEMS Laser Scanning in the HoloLens 2 was developed and is owned by MicroVision, their neighbor across town. Microsoft will pay royalties in perpetuity to MicroVision for their use of MEMS Laser Beam Scanning technology, for as long as MicroVision exists as a standalone company.

3. What are the markets for MVIS MEMS Laser Beam Scanning?

3a) Mixed Reality Displays. The company's technology is currently shipping in Microsoft's HoloLens 2. The US Army is using HoloLens 2 for its IVAS program, which has $906M budgeted for FY2021 starting in October. This budget allows them to purchase over 40,000 units of IVAS this year to outfit our soldiers with situational awareness information.

In addition to military applications, there are enterprise and health care use cases to improve productivity, enable faster learning of processes, perform remote collaboration, and understand and manipulate 3D data in ways that were never possible.

What this really is about is taking data and computer information out of a flat, 2D screen, and placing it in 3D space in front of you, to manipulate and interact with.

What this will ultimately look like are cool glasses that superimpose information on your regular field of view. One could reasonably expect this technology for eyewear displays, with its stated advantages in size, weight and power (stated by Microsoft), to become as ubiquitous as the cell phone.

3b) Interactive Projection Displays

For the last couple of years, MVIS was developing an Interactive Display module for a North American Tier 1 AI Platform Owner (read, Amazon). The companies had gone through a lengthy negotiation on the purchase of millions of MVIS Interactive Display units, before the customer decided against the 2020 product launch (presumably due to COVID-19). However, the Interactive Display module is there and ready to launch to any customer, be it Amazon, Google, Apple or anyone looking to disrupt the smart speaker space.

The MVIS projection display module, without the interactivity, has also been embedded into cell phones by small cell phone companies in China (see this video).

The same MVIS scanning laser system that creates a projected image can be used as a sensor to understand 3D space. This works by measuring the time for a given point of light to hit a surface and be reflected back to the system. Using the speed of light, the system create a 3D mapping of the environment.

This could be used in combination with an AI smart speaker to give it 'eyes'. It can also be used for automotive applications for autonomous vehicles or adaptive safety systems and for drones and robots to give them awareness in 3D space.

4.) MVIS is seeking strategic alternatives or a sale of the company. What does that look like?

MVIS may choose to license or sell the rights to one or more of its vertical markets, or the sell the entire company, to an acquirer. I've described which customers align best with the MVIS verticals here, here and here.

For example, MVIS could choose to sell LIDAR to NVIDIA, Interactive Displays to Amazon and Mixed Reality displays to Microsoft.

They could choose with a partner to spin out a new company around any of these verticals, a scenario I described here.

Or, they could sell the entire company to someone like ST Micro (who manufactures the MEMS used in all of the above).

Hopefully at Tuesday's Shareholder Meeting we will come to understand the current state of play of these strategic alternatives.