The same technology used in Nintendo’s popular Wii video game console that lets you bowl strikes and hit tennis volleys is also making its way into mobile handsets.
Responding to a flick of the wrist or sweep of the arm, tiny sensors called accelerometers, which measure linear acceleration in the Wiimote game controller, translate motion into action on the screen. When the technology is added to a cell phone, the handset’s utility changes in several intriguing ways. It can, for example, function as a motion-sensing mouse that lets you browse the mobile Internet by tilting the device left, right, up or down. It even can allow you to monitor a fitness workout by measuring the number of steps you take, your speed and the calories burned.
Experts say this is just the beginning. As accelerometers advanced from one-axis to two-axis to three-axis measurement capabilities, their accuracy has improved dramatically. And some companies, such as the 3-year-old start-up Invensense, are taking the technology a step further by combining three-axis accelerometers with gyroscopes, which measure rotation speed, to create even-more accurate sensors that could be used to improve photo stabilization and location and navigation services.
Analog Devices, one of the largest manufacturers of accelerometers, has already supplied more than 300 million of the devices to consumer electronics makers over the past decade, but Christophe Lemaire, the company’s marketing manager, said the market is set to explode as more of these components make their way into cell phones.
Lemaire predicts handset makers will include accelerometers to detect if a phone is resting facedown, so that it can turn off the ringer or power down the display to conserve battery power. Accelerometers also could be used to shut off power on phones that have been left idle.
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