“False Soothsayer?” Part 2

ShowWX consumed 5.6 Watts

Microvision in their blog and their recent 8-K statement wrote Lest you be led astray by false soothsayers.”    I would agree not to be led by “false soothsaying”   but I think that it is Microvision that is trying to lead people astray.    I very much believe in the future of direct green lasers but the problem is that the reality does not fit with what Microvision appears to want people to believe.

In my previous post, Microvision’s “Soothsayer(?)” for their “Number One Question”, I outlined where Microvision’s blog response (to me I have every reason to believe) missed the mark on answering the key questions related to direct green lasers.   In my opinion, they gave non-answers and half-truths.

This certainly is not the first time Microvision has engaged in “false soothsaying.”  For this blog entry, I want to deal with Microvision’s comments and predictions on power consumption through the years.  Something for which there is a track record of Microvision predictions and then the measured results.

Since at least as far back as 2007, Microvision’s Alex Tokman has been saying that their “goal” is 1.5 Watts dropping to 1 Watts for their total power.   I have copied below a number of references quoting Mr. Tokman in 2007 and 2008 prior to the introduction of the ShowWX.

I have also personally measured (pictured above) the ShowWX that Microvision actually delivered in March of 2010.  It consumed not 1, not 2, not 3 or even 4, but rather it consumed a wopping 5.6 Watts and I measured only about 10.5 lumens of light output for about 2 lumens per Watt.  This was by far the worst efficiency than any of the “LED” pico projectors I had measure using DLP or LCOS that I have measured.  So much for Microvision’s claim that laser beam scanning is the most efficient.

I measured both the power consumption for white (top picture) and it came out to 5V times 1.12A or 5.6 Watts for 10.5 lumens.   Microvision claimed a big advantage for laser beam steering is how they save power when displaying black so I measure a full black image (lower picture) and it came to 5V times 0.7A or 3.5 Watts so that even when putting out a black image it consumed more power than the LED projectors did putting out well over 10 lumens.

Below are some of the Microvision quotes (and my comments) on power consumption I found in a quick web search.  They show I think a consistent attempt to create an impression that their power consumption was much better than it actually was and was going to be:

As good a reference as any on to Microvision’s “sooth saying” on power was an article in the “The Economist”  from Mar 6th 2008:


Mr Tokman says the big mobile-phone manufacturers have set an upper limit on the power consumption of a projector of 1.5 watts. Given a typical phone battery, this would allow a projector to operate for about 2.5 hours, long enough to watch a film. Microvision’s prototype consumes about three [3] watts at the moment, but Mr Tokman expects this figure to fall as the internal circuitry is concentrated within a smaller number of dedicated chips.”

So Mr. Tokman said in March 2008 that they were already at about 3 Watts in March 2008 and yet about 2 years later when the ShowWX started actually selling, they appear to have gone backwards because the ShowWX that they sold consumed over 5 Watts.   Was this a severe rounding error?    Or maybe he didn’t count everything that consumed power in the projector.   It looks to me that they couldn’t predict the present, no less the future.

I also find that Microvision particularly in their conference calls often talks in what seem to be almost riddles.  On direct green lasers they talk about them being less than SGL throwing around almost random “X’s” and “Y’s” and percentages but never give any real idea as to whether they will be cost effective, and  just as importantly, when they will be lower in cost (in semiconductors, you have to know the price, volume, and date to have anything meaningful).

Let’s look at some of the similar riddles they gave on power in their “Microvision, Inc. Q2 2008 Earnings Call” on August 5, 2008:


Alexander Tokman, “First, let me talk about power consumption. The power consumption of the latest version of the MEMS scanner has been reduced by approximately 75% over the previous version initially shown about a year ago. What is the significance of this reduction? Let me give you the big picture. The cell phone manufacturers told us that the target spec for the overall power consumption for the embedded Pico Projector which includes MEMS scanner, light sources, ASIC optics and other components should not exceed 1 ½ watt.

And more numbers riddles in their Q1 2008 Microvision, Inc. Earnings Conference Call – 24-APR-08


“ALEXANDER TOKMAN: Again, excellent question. Let’s start with the application requirement. What the application requirement calls for, based on the direct user feedback and the OEM feedback we have solicited to date is that accessory device must function on its own for 2.5 hours without recharging. And 2.5 hours obviously comes from watching a long movie. That’s what our target is. The SHOW prototype that we demonstrated could function without recharging for 1.5 hours. So we are reducing the ultimate power of this device by 40%. I think we were talking about five more during CES so if you subtract 40% it will get you somewhere around sub three watts. On the accessory. Obviously, embedded targets are much more aggressive than this.”

I guess all those percentages made it sound real and important.  And in the second quote again that they had 3 Watts in 2008 and yet the product they actually sold nearly two years later consumed over 5 Watts.

From Q3 2007 Microvision, Inc. Earnings Conference Call –  01-NOV-07:


Alexander Tokman – “Recall that we said we want to target [access] rate for 2.5 hour continuous operation without recharging, and we targeted the embedded module for the first generation to be 1.5 watts, which is what cell phone manufacturers have expressed to us for all of us to be successful.”

Finally the earliest reference to their LBS consuming 1 to 1.5 Watts I found was back in 2007 in Microvision’s Blogspot 2007-05:


Alex Tokman: “we are targeting an engine that will draw 1.5 watts of power, going down to 1 watt. So we feel we’re on the threshold of getting inside the cell phone. Although other people are claiming that they’re capable of doing this, we feel good about our position for this specific application.”

So 3 and a half years later, how is Microvision’s sooth saying?


Karl Guttag
Karl Guttag
Articles: 244


  1. Karl,
    Great response. Thanks for your clarification and guidance regarding the MVIS blog. I think it’s great that a “industry insider” takes the time to shed light on the topic of DGL. I do however find it a bit discomforting that you are so aggressively defending your posistion and beliefes. It appears as though your Pico Projection Blog has turned into a “he said – she said” in only a short period of time. Just look how many A.T. quotes you have outlined in Part 2. I also find it concerning that you conclude that the “soothsayer” comment was directed to you. In rebuttal you have dedicated a 2 part blog post to refute the statements made by Microvisions Investor Relations staff. A funny little quote my grandmother always said was “a burglar always has the most locks”. Karl I hope you get back on track and continue to discuss the industry of pico projection and DGl. I found the information you provided regarding Diode green Laser and wavelength very interesting. Hopefully you can stop wasting so much energy discrediting the statements made by Alexander Tokman and the staff at Microvision. I mean who cares anyway. You have already told us the technology and platform they use is a non issue.

    • Thanks, and to a degree I understand you point.

      Microvision was clearly aiming their “false soothsayer” at me. But if they are going to cast doubt about other peoples’ predictions, I thought it would be good to see how wildly far off their predictions have been and continue to be. How they talk about X% of this and y% of that as if they actually said something about the cost of direct green lasers. Microvision has purveyed in the “snake oil” selling of the “HK effect” (totally abusing what it means) as part of their myth that “laser lumens” are somehow brighter than “LED lumens”. And then there is their hand wave about laser safety (see Ed Buckley’s articles). Beyond this they they have said that panel based projectors can’t be focus free even though they are when they use lasers.

      As an engineer, I see them using half-truths and junk science to deceive people. For them of all people to accuse anyone of being a “false soothsayer” when they have made a business out of deceiving people is pretty rich. As an industry expert, my credibility is in part based on predicting the future. Nobody’s crystal ball is 100% right, but in the case of green lasers this isn’t even a close call to anyone that knows what is going on in the industry. I was about to try and tone down the Microvision chatter on the blog and was working on the laser technical article series when the 8-K/Blog went out. There is a lot more wrong with laser beam steering including all the image quality, flicker, and power issues, but I wanted to write about other stuff for a while.

      As far as who cares, my blog’s traffic jumped a lot since Microvision’s 8-K went out, so I guess I should in a perverse way be grateful to Microvision. What can I say, if it bleeds it leads :-).

      On a business technical level, this is a slow week in the industry with the holidays so most people aren’t going to be following the technical stuff much this week anyway. The technical stuff takes a lot more effort to write as well.

  2. Hello Karl and Bill

    I guess there are some miss-leadings.

    I think Cell phone manufacturers say it requires 1.5W as a pico-projector engine MODULE level. Karl measured 5W was by the whole projector product including other functions.

    An important thing is to measure PicoP engine’s power consumption, or to identify how many % of power consumed by the engine part.


    • The ShowWX had the least features of of any of the pico projectors. Some of them even had media players in them. The ShowWX just had to take analog RGB (VGA connector in) and put up an image and that shouldn’t take much power.

      • spot on Mike.

        cell phone companies will want to use their own video chip.
        but one has to add the MEMS ASIC to the IPM and foot print.

        it would be nice if the MEMS ASIC can be folded into another chip.

      • Ok, you got me. Take off 0.5 Watts for the video chip (I think that is being generous, how much to you think it burns?). Now they are only over the power budget by 3.5 to 4 Watts. They are also not off by one chip, but by several chips.

      • Karl, i’m not an expert in anything. not really wanting to play the got’cha game either.
        i’m hoping to learn a few things here.
        it just seemed like the measuring of wattage on a full stand alone projector and what needs to go into a cell phone could not be measured the same.

      • To me_wwwing and Mike T comments:

        Hopefully part 3 of the “Soothsayer” series answers a lot of your questions. The ShowWX (and Plus and HDMI) are such stripped down “stand alone” projectors that there really isn’t much to take out that would save power. I would estimate about 0.5W and certainly less than a Watt. Almost all the power is being consumed by the projector itself.

  3. this from IR at MVIS…

    “Thanks for your email. Yes that is our belief. At introduction, we expect direct green lasers to be a fraction of the cost of synthetic green lasers and will enable our engine to meet a price target necessary for embedded applications”

    Embedded in what? Why not say what and what price?

    • Yes, they started with the weasel word “believe” so they could say they believe in UFOs too because you can’t hold them legally accountable for their “belief.” They also “believed” that in 2008 they would be at 1.5W or less right now at as late a 2010 they “believed” that SGL would be cost effective for making high volume embedded products. I can’t fault them for using the word “believe,” particularly as a public company, but they use it to give them license to say things that are not true.

      I have found with anything Microvsion has put out, you have to dissect the words. As you wrote “Embedded in what?” I don’t consider a “media player” and embedded product for example, but at some point it seems Microvision started “believing” that it is. Embedding would be putting a projector into something like a cell phone or a camera which puts severe pressure on the cost and power consumption. Also, maybe they “believe” people will pay an extra $200 for a projector in a cell phone; its not going to happen in an significant volume but they can “believe” that it “could” happen.

      With the way people like those at Microvision twist the truth, you really have to pin them down and good luck because they are slippery like a politician. You could try by asking things like:

      “What volume of products do you think constitutes “commercial production?”

      “Do you think anyone will be ready to make more than 100,000 units of green lasers with a green wavelength of 515nm or longer?”

      “What is the WPE you need to see in 2012 and at what wavelengths to have a viable product? — note I asked about their needs and not what their NDA’s with laser companies state.

      “What is the current power consumption of the PicoP engine including all drive electronics?”

      “The measured power consumption of the ShowWX is about 5 Watts, where is all that power going?”

      “You stated in 2007 and 2008 that you already had 3 Watt PicoP’s, then why did the ShowWX consume 5 Watts?”

      “How come you have never put out a paper addressing the laser safety issues and how you will meet the standards?”

      “Have any cell phone companies told you that you need to meet Class 1?”

      Also how about:
      “What exactly did you mean by “false soothsayers”?”

      “What exactly did the false soothsayers say that was “false”?”

      Good luck, I doubt they will answer any of the above with a straight forward and unambiguous way.

Leave a Reply