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MEMS invade consumer electronics

Posted: 01 Aug 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:design  motion  control  applications 

Gyroscopes are also appearing in TV remote controls that aim to ease the use of Internet TV. LG is now shipping a TV with a point-and-click remote control using motion control software from Hillcrest Labs that does the sensor fusion, calibration and signal processing to remove imperfections in the data and compensate for temperature variations for a more precise data stream, then wraps it with a mouse pointer function, for precise point and click to easily navigate the many TV options. The large remote control OEMs SMK and Universal Electronics are also customers. Hillcrest has also helped to evangelise the idea of motion control and move the infrastructure along with its own ring-shaped point-and-click remote control and a computer web browser designed specifically for computers linked to the TV. LG's involvement has also spurred development of graphic interfaces for point-and-click TV navigation from a number of major television content suppliers. Internet service providers and set top box makers are getting into the act as well. France's Free ISP has introduced a set top box designed by Philippe Starck with a motion sensing remote with Movea software to control its extensive menu of live and streaming TV, internet, gaming and phone services.

But the major driver for inertial sensors in mobile consumer devices going forward is likely to be the demand for more accurate location and navigation applications. GPS chipset makers report their customers are asking for more reliable pedestrian navigation capability that combines outdoor and indoor maps for location-aware searches, so users can find what they want, where they want it. This useful level of accurate navigation depends on having not only an accelerometer and a magnetometer, but also a gyroscope and a pressure sensor, to accurately track steps and changes in direction and level to be able to locate the user by dead reckoning when radio or satellite signals aren't available. Here too the infrastructure is developing, with indoor maps of major US destination locations like malls and airports now available from suppliers like Point Inside, indoor location signals installed by some interested store or mall management, and advertisers testing various hyper-localized information or offers. First localized search applications like Gas Buddy, OpenTable and Groupon's "I'm Hungry", which don't need particularly high accuracy of location, are finding traction with consumers in the US. More detailed search within stores or augmented reality that can show information about particular places will however require the full set of accurate, low drift sensors to improve precision from tens of meters down to within meters.

- Laurent Robin
  EE Times

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