Doc Rampage
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
  the odd case of Light Blue Optics II
In a previous post, I gave a list of reasons to wonder if Light Blue Optics really has the technology that it claims to have. It is very cool technology and if it is for real then LBO is going to be big. But is it for real? Among the reasons for doubt, I gave a list of announcements that the company made: claiming that they had a working prototype, claiming that they were selling evaluation kits and announcing a product line, even though in a dozen articles about the prototype demo, no one claimed to have seen it personally and Light Blue Optics has never shipped a unit.

Now all of this could be just bad luck, but I noticed other issues like slippery language discussing the qualifications of the contributors to the technology. Now, I'm not a degree snob. A lot of very smart people (like myself, just for example) have gotten their PhDs from second-rung schools. Lots of other very smart people don't have PhDs at all. So I'm not suggesting that just because Adrian Cable and Edward Buckley may not have the degrees that are implied on the company website that this would mean that they are not smart guys. But it would mean that Light Blue Optics is trying to trick people. And that is a bad sign --I don't believe in harmless marketing lies. A lie is a lie, and if a company lies to you about one thing, they will lie to you about something else.

And finally, there is the non-existence of any real explanation of the technology. All I could find are the usual gadget-porn sites with the usual gee-golly half-coherent buzzword-laden but not really informative company-supplied pitch and some whitepapers with the above along with some scary math that doesn't really explain anything either.

So, hating to waste all that research time, I decided to write a post about what I had not discovered. I edited the post three times to tone it down and not look like I was outright accusing the LBO of fraud. All I have at this point is suspicions, so I didn't want to write anything that would negatively impact the LBO if I were wrong.

A couple of people have objected to the post anyway. One anonymous commenter speculated that I had been turned down for a job at the company and called me a baby. As luck would have it, I am older than twelve and so this reproach did not cause me the angst that it otherwise might have. The other commenter was kind enough to contribute to my research by giving me some more links to read. The purpose of this post is to discuss that additional information.

First, the commenter gave me three patent links to look at:
1. http://www.faqs.org/...
2. http://www.wipo.int/...
3. http://www.faqs.org/...
These are patent applications, not patents; they haven't been granted yet. And there are only two applications represented here. Light Blue Optics Patent application 1 is mostly about noise reduction in a holographic 2D projector once you have the 2D projector. It doesn't really say how you make one in the first place. Patent applications 2 and 3 are essentially the same appliation, one to the US patent office and one to the WIPO. It only claims the general idea of a projector based on holograms and suggests some fairly standard technological means to solve various standard problems of projections. How you get real-time moving-picture holograms is left as an exercise for the reader.

The other links seem aimed at establishing the bonafides of the two people I wondered about. The first is this:
http://www.sid.org/chapters/uki/ ...n_sturgeon.html
"The Ben Sturgeon Award for 2009 has been awarded to Dr Edward Buckley....
Edward graduated with a first class Masters degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from University College London. Following that, he began his Ph.D. research into real- time holographic projection systems at Cambridge University in 2003. While at Cambridge, he jointly invented a method for real-time holographic laser projection on which the company Light Blue Optics was founded in 2004."
I have two things to say about this: first, although it clearly implies that Buckley got his PhD at Cambridge, it doesn't really say so. This is the same kind of slippery language I complained about before. Second, this award is by SID, the Society for Information Display. More about that organization later.

The other link is this
http://www.sid.org/chapters/uki/.../uki/ sharp.html
"The winner of the Sharp-SID Best Student Award 2007 is Dr Adrian Cable of Light Blue Optics, who completed his PhD under Tim Wilkinson at the University of Cambridge. Adrian's work has resulted in an algorithm, which allows binary phase holograms to be generated in real time."
Three things to say about this one. First, this one is a little harder to explain away as fishy language, but, as luck would have it, I am up to the task. Second, this award is also granted by those ubiquitous SID persons. And third, that comma after "algorithm" really bugs me. Don't they edit these things? So, in more detail, why is this language slippery? Doesn't it say that he "completed his degree" at Cambridge? Doesn't that mean that he was given his degree at Cambridge? Well, not exactly. The wording is odd. You don't say that you "completed" your degree at an instution, you say that you "earned" or "were granted" your degree. Of course this is England where they haven't kept up with modern trends in the language, so this could be an Englishism. But it is also possible that he started his degree under Tim Wilkinson at the University of WTF, that Wilkinson subsequently moved to Cambridge and took his students with him to finish their WTF degrees. So although they were working at Cambridge, and may even have been working on Cambridge salaries working for a Cambridge professor, they would actually be granted their degrees from WTF. At least that's how it works in the US sometimes.

I hasten to add that this is all mere speculation spurred by tortuously ambiguous language; I don't have any actual inside information. But tortuously ambiguous language makes me suspicious because I'm just a suspicious kind of guy.

Now what about those ubiquitous SID folks? They publish all of LBO's whitepapers and give all of LBO's awards. It looks like this group is just all-to-hell impressed with Light Blue Optics. Or maybe they're just getting paid? I don't know, but looking at their web sited I wonder if SID is just a marketing organization masquerading as an engineering society (see last sentence of previous paragraph).

Well, that's enough for now. Reading patents and awards testimonials is not really exciting stuff so I'm done for the moment. I'll do some more research on LBO and SID and post again if anything interesting comes up.
UPDATE: more as of 4/2010.
 
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