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I’m going to have to eat some crow because up until Saturday night, I honestly thought Google was using a transmissive panel based on the shape of the newer Google Glass headset. I hadn’t seen anything that showed it used Field Sequential Color (FSC) and I had looked for it in several videos before that didn’t appear to show it. With FSC the various (red, green, blue and perhaps other colors) are presented to the eye in sequence rather than all at the same time and this can show up in videos (usually) and in sometimes in still pictures.
But on a Saturday (March 9th) I watch the Google produced Video DVF [through Glass] from way back in September 2012. A careful frame by frame analysis (see above for the images from 3 frames) of the video proves that the newer Google Glass design uses a Field Sequential Color display (FSC). Note in the picture above captured at 3 separate times, there is a red, green, and blue images in the Google Glass which is indicative of FSC. Based on the size and shape and some other technical factors (too much to go into here), it has to be a reflective Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) device, most likely made by Himax.
BTW, as further visual evidence (there are a couple more examples in the video but this one is to me the clearest) of it being an FSC device is given later in the video at 3:30 when Google Co-Founder (and part-time actor?) Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass stands up to applaud and there is a classic FSC color breakup as captured in the picture below one recognizable to anyone that has looked into an FSC projector. Seeing separate color fields when the projector moves is a classic FSC effect.
This (new) evidence largely confirms Seeking Alpha Blogger Mark Gomes conclusion that Himax is in both the old and the newer Google Glass design (see also his instablog response to my comments). Back last week I was not convinced and commented that I still thought it was a transmissive panel and Mr. Gomes and I has some cordial back and forth public discussion in each others blogs about it on Seeking Alpha and this blog. But with the proof that it is using field sequential color, there is only one conclusion and that is that it is a reflective field sequential color LCOS device. This also adds up as to why the earlier prototype was using a Himax Color Filter LCOS device when it would have been simpler and smaller to have used a transmissive panel at that time. Apparently the color filter LCOS was a “stand-in” waiting for the smaller field sequential color device and/or optics.
Additionally, while I had dismissed the Digitimes Himax and Google Glass article as confirming it was Himax because it appeared a couple of days after Mark Gomes’ article and so I thought it was just an “echo” of what he and I had written. But in public comments Mr. Gomes pointed out that it was adding some more details.
So why do I now agree with Mr. Gomes that the Google Glasses most likely uses a Himax panel? The evidence is overwhelming that it is field sequential color and it seems that Himax is the obvious candidate since in my first blog on the subject appear Feb 28, 2012 clearly identified Himax as supplying the earlier Google Glass prototype and they have had FSC LCOS devices for about 6 years. This is further reinforced by what Mark Gomes has posted as well as the Digitimes article. Both the technical and the financial/business analysis agree.
There are a few other but IMO much less likely candidates. My old company Syndiant has digital field FSC LCOS technology that last I knew about both was technically superior to that of Himax’s analog LCOS technology, but I don’t think Syndiant would be ready for a Google sized order yet (and the announced JVC-Kenwood deal happened too recently). Citizen Finetech Miyota (CFM) recently bought FSC LCOS technology from Micron, but I can’t see why Micron would have sold the technology to CFM if a deal with Google was in the works. Omnivision bought the the FSC LCOS technology of Aurora Systems, but it was not very good technology IMO and so far I only know of the continuing to make the old Aurora devices which are aimed at front projectors. Then there is Compound Photonics who bought the FSC assets from the now defunct Brillian but they have stated that they are working on laser pico projectors.
Also, please don’t give me the conspiracy and collusion theories. The video I watched on March 9th was the first one I had seen that proved Google Glass was field sequential color. Additionally, I never corresponded with or even knew of Mark Gomes before the Seeking Alpha article came out mentioning my blog and I was legitimately concerned that he may have ignored some of my original article and only considered the parts that supported his position so I wanted to correct the record. Mark Gomes for his part was very respectful, yet emphatic in his position based on his research which now appears to me to have been largely correct (although I still say the Himax web site looks abandoned and Himax did give the appearance of having given up on FSC LCOS back around 2010). Frankly, I was as surprise as anyone at the wild swings in Himax stock and didn’t buy any before my first article.
Full Disclosure: I never traded in Himax stock before today (or any other stock discussed on this blog other than being a well know holder of the private company Syndiant stock as a form Founder, CTO, and Investor). But seeing how the Google Glass news last week affected the stock and based on Mr. Gomes’ articles, combined with this new evidence, I decide to put some money where my mouth is and just bought some Himax (HIMX) to see what happens.
Figuring out that Google Glass used FSC would have been instantly recognizable to anyone that got to use the newer Google Glass device, but I didn’t have one to play with and I was using the available on-line video and pictures. The crafted Google videos that give the appearance of looking through the Google Glass didn’t show this because they simulation of the display. And in most of the videos the image in the Google Glass was not visible and/or the camera exposure and other settings didn’t pick up the FSC effects. Perhaps Ironically, it appears that the camera in Google Glass tends to pick up the FSC effect more than other cameras used to shoot pictures of people wearing it.
Some video cameras more so than others will tend to pick up the signature color breakup of FSC. Also the camera angle has to be right so you can see the image when videoing someone wearing Google Glass. And perhaps most importantly, the exposure of the camera, which is usually based on the overall scene, has to be such that the sequential colors from the small spot of light in the viewfinder (haven’t ever seen a close up of the viewfinder) does not over-expose and wash out the colors (in this case you may notice a more white flicker).
All I did was play the video DVF [through Glass] on my PC and kept pausing and un-pausing it. It is tricky to catch the frames that show FSC. One reason is that the video has many frames per second and the Youtube player does not support “shuttle/jog” frame by frame. One could download the video and play it frame by frame but it is not necessary. I just kept going over the time around 0:38 to 0:44 a few times to capture the images. Similarly went through the video at about 3:30 to get the FSC breakup with Sergey Brin.
Note that you will not always see a red, green, or blue color when you capture a frame. When colors get too bright in the image, it will saturate the camera sensor and result in white. I don’t believe there is a “white field” in the Google Glass but rather it is just that the camera is not picking up the colors due to over saturation.
I should also add that FSC effects show up differently on different cameras and in different lighting and camera exposure. I have looked previously at other Google Glass stills and videos trying to find FSC effect and did not find them. Unless the camera angle and the exposure is right, you just aren’t going to see the colors. Even in this whole video, I only found a few seconds of video that demonstrated FSC.