The Wearable Multimedia Gateway

Looking back on the conference call there's one particular thing that sticks with me. Steve Willey mentioned that the company is working on a "wearable multimedia gateway to support emerging cellular handset services, television, etc., which currently are bottlenecked by the very small display."

Thinking about it some more, I am convinced that this is not a name that he could have thought up off the top of his head. Many hours have likely been spent evaluating the market potential of wearable displays, and in particular the positioning of these products to reduce user resistance and promote widespread adoption. Calling something a 'head mounted display' makes you think of big clunky things that weigh 20 lbs. sitting on your head. But a 'wearable multimedia gateway'? That's something that people might not have any preconceived notions about. It just sounds cool, like it will allow me to gain more value from the capabilities of my media devices. Like it will bring me somewhere I couldn't go without it.

And this is very likely the case. If Microvision is to become a multi-billion dollar technology juggernaut it will be due to the success of this 'gateway' product. The opportunities for Nomad in the military, for auto repair, manufacturing and plant maintenance are indeed huge. And we would do very well for ourselves if we simply had good success penetrating these markets. But the opportunity represented by the cell phone market where 700 million units are sold per year is just astoundingly large. It is very important the we have a product for this market that:

1. consumers will readily adopt
2. enables cell phone companies and network operators to increase profits
3. increases the usefulness and enjoyability of cell phones.

There is a fundamental mindset shift that is going to be required to have people wear their phones like eyeglasses instead of a clamshell that's stored in your pocket and brought out when needed. Making this shift as easy as possible for consumers and device makers will require stylish form factors, clever marketing, and a killer 'wow factor' such that anyone who tries it out is just floored and has to own one.

The discussion of the multimedia gateway was prefaced by a reference to the August 2004 press release describing the 7.6M pixel (later upgraded to 9M pixel) microdisplay based on a new 'multi-zone' scanning architecture that uses cheap, off-the-shelf LEDs as light sources. Here's what Steve Willey had to say about the new architecture at the time:

"This is a major milestone in the development of color microdisplays for consumer products," said Steve Willey, President of Microvision. "This architecture gives us the potential to achieve much wider fields of view and higher resolution necessary for the higher performance imaging and consumer products we are targeting.

"It's very scalable and allows us to take advantage of the benefits of declining costs of memory, processing power and most significantly, inexpensive and increasingly bright LEDs. We believe the new architecture has tremendous market potential, particularly for those microdisplay applications that flat panel suppliers find difficult to address."

Also of interest in the conference call were Willey's comments about the video gaming market: "Certainly with respect to electronic gaming, we now believe that this market could be very receptive to a next generation of HMD based solutions." An intriguing statement. We now believe. It would be interesting to learn what kinds of events helped to inform this belief.

Rick made a point to talk about the intellectual property involved in the design of the gateway product, referring to it as a "fundamental landmark patent opportunity".

The meeting of a massive market with a transformational enabling product may cause shocks and eruptions that no one could predict beforehand. The rights to this technology may prove to be among the most valuable assets in the world.

MVIS Blog is an advertising supported service. Please visit our sponsors at the top of the page to ensure that high quality MVIS Blog content keeps coming, every day.