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Coming soon: Gyroscope-equipped smart phones

Posted: 17 May 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:gyroscope? MEMS? smart phone? interface? accelerometer?

The electronics industry's worst-kept secret is that the first mobile handset to pack a MEMS gyroscope will roll next month. Analyst speculation on the vendor has ranged from Apple (with the iPhone 4G) to HTC and ST-Ericsson, but regardless of who is first, every major smart phone vendor is predicted to follow suit by 2012.

Gyroscopes will become ubiquitous in smart phones, according to analysts, because gyros can support new user interface modes, enhance the online gaming experience, perform indoor navigation by virtue of dead reckoning and enable augmented-reality applications that overlay information about a target when a phone's digital camera is pointed at it.

Just as the Apple iPhone opened the eyes of handset vendors to how a MEMS accelerometer could harness motion to change from portrait to landscape views, the MotionPlus game controller for Nintendo's Wii "has stimulated the imagination of handset makers" by proving "how well a six-axis solutiona three-axis accelerometer plus three-axis gyroscopeworks by making the motion recognition smoother and more precise," said iSuppli analyst Jrmie Bouchaud.

With accelerometers alone, said Doug Vargha, director of marketing for InvenSense's gaming and 3D user interface business unit, "you can either get a really noisy output that is responsive, or you can get a clean output that's sluggish. But when you combine an accelerometer with a gyro, you get a clean output that is responsive. The accelerometer alone can't tell the difference between motion and gravity, but with the addition of a gyro you can immediately sense the onset of motion, making the user interface more responsive and free from artifacts."

InvenSense provides the chip for the Wii MotionPlus' add-on gyroscope, which snaps onto the bottom of the remote, adding the ability to detect angular momentum in all three dimensions (complementing the accelerometer's ability to measure linear acceleration).

The overall MEMS gyroscope market, the bulk of which is for image stabilization in digital cameras, will rise from $447 million in 2009 to more than $763 million by 2012, according to iSuppli. Will Strauss, founder of Forward Concepts Co., predicts that the worldwide market for MEMS gyroscopes in mobile handsets will rise from zero last year to $38 million this year and more than $70 million by 2012.

MEMS gyroscopes' first success story was in the digital still camera market, where they have almost 100 percent penetration, according to Mike Housholder, director of marketing for the mobile handset business unit at InvenSense.

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