OIDA forum focuses on consumer trends

April 15, 2007
SAN JOSE, CA-Mobile appliances, solid-state lighting, automobiles, alternative energy, and healthcare were the “hot topics” at the first Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA) consumer-oriented forum (April 3-4).

SAN JOSE, CA-Mobile appliances, solid-state lighting, automobiles, alternative energy, and healthcare were the “hot topics” at the first Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA) consumer-oriented forum (April 3-4). Representatives from TI, Avago, Shefenacker, Lumileds, Agilent, US Venture Partners, Stanford, Nanosys, Versant Ventures, and Novalux discussed emerging trends in consumer electronics and the opportunities for optoelectronics to satisfy the technology challenges posed by such products as 4G phones, digital gaming, solid-state lighting, and noninvasive medical diagnostics.

“We are clearly seeing the convergence of optoelectronic (OE) technologies with consumer applications,” said OIDA CEO Michael Lebby in his introductory talk. “Consumer markets already dominate the OE market space, and new applications and technologies are just now reaching inflection points which will increase consumer share of the OE market.”

Among the key points to emerge from the two-day forum:

-The human-machine interface remains a ripe area for development of OE-based designs for everything from mobile devices to automobiles. In a panel discussion on the first day, Phil Gad of Avago noted that “the real issue in all this is the human interface, not computing power.” Malcom Penn of Future Horizon agreed. “The general consensus is that phones are becoming mobile computers,” he said. “But at some point the human factor comes into place. If you try to be all things to all people, you could ultimately fail.”

-Optical sensors for areas as diverse as automotive safety (such as drowsy driver detection) to noninvasive blood-chemistry monitoring will also be key areas for development.

-Combinations of high-power VCSELs, LEDs, OLEDs, and MEMS technologies offer significant advances in displays and lighting that will emerge in the next two to three years.

-Nanotechnologies are beginning to be deployed that exploit nanostructure effects in optics for products such as enhanced phosphors for lighting, biomedical applications, and improved display efficiencies.

Many of the talks centered on the convergence of mobile phone technology with consumer applications such as gaming, streaming video, and even “pocket projectors.” Mike Mignardi of Texas Instruments gave an interesting presentation about the company’s latest work in this arena involving its proprietary digital light processing (DLP) technology. In late March, TI demonstrated a prototype of a DLP “pico-projector” that is only 1.3 inches long. According to the company, the DLP pico-projectors, either as a stand-alone projector or as an integrated component in mobile devices, will provide consumers and business professionals with the flexibility to share video and graphic content in a larger way. It puts out DVD-quality images with wide-screen TV resolution from a lens small enough to replace the camera on a cell phone or be added next to it.

Digital phones and gaming

Several other sessions at the OIDA forum touched on “phones of the future,” with emphasis on digital gaming, CMOS imaging, and wafer-level optics and assembly. Gad discussed the ongoing transition from 2G and 3G to 4G cell phones (still about three years out) and what this entails in the way of both technological capabilities and consumer expectations. As mobile handsets incorporate more multimedia applications-cameras, music players, GPS, Bluetooth radio, WiFi radios, TV, multiple modes/bands for phone and radio communication, and the ability to navigate between all of these things and move data internally-there are increasing opportunities for OE components, he noted, from backlighting to proximity sensors, ambient light photo sensors, color LED chips, and fiber optics. But with each new capability comes the need for more power, Gad added.

“So many components means more memory and power usage,” said Gad. “But consumer expectations don’t take this into consideration. And they still expect to get the phones for free!” As a result, Avago has developed and is testing in Japan a new low-voltage battery that increases power density.

Paramesh Gopi of Marvell gave an interesting overview of trends in the digital gaming industry and how OE devices are enabling the next generation of gaming devices-notably “immersion platforms” that incorporate biofeedback and reciprocal interaction. Among the OE technologies he says are playing a key part in this market are gyroscopes that increase a user’s experience within a game and multi-spectral arrays that enhance the ability to couple body language and form into a particular landscape.

“In virtual reality/augmented reality games (such as martial arts, running, fighter pilots, and race car drivers), the key building blocks include optoelectronic microsystems that are fully operational in a visual spectrum such as your living room; source and receiver combinations to dynamically measure displacement, velocity, and acceleration; integrated digital signal processing (DSP) and short-range RF; and rapid transport,” Gopi said.

At the same time, however, developers of these technologies must keep very specific cost and performance requirements in mind-especially given that it takes $3 million to $5 million to develop a new game and that new gaming platforms come out every 4-6 years.

“The applications are there, but you need to be able to squeeze the sensor, source, and DSP into a package that weighs no more than 200 grams, can utilize 500-750 mA HR batteries, and is much lower cost,” Gopi said. “For makers of optical subsystems, you need to re-evaluate your process technology based on system partitioning and trade off source strength and fidelity for cost.”
-Kathy Kincade

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