MIT's experimental motion sensor would use simple physics to create a tiny, six-dimensional sensor that would cost ten times less than the usual motion sensors found in smartphones and air bag systems. It does that by replacing the intricate ballet of moving parts in motion sensors with a simple metal bead and an electric field.
The fluctuating electric field holds the metal bead suspended in a tight orbit within "a hole drilled in a circuit board," according to Neil Gershenfeld of the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms. Disturbances in that bead's orbit indicate the sensor's direction of motion.
Just one of the tiny microdynamical devices can replace six different micromechanical sensors. It gauges linear motion in three dimensions (three accelerometers) and also detects orientation regarding sideways, forward or rotational motion (three gyroscopes).
That has huge implications for making more precise motion detection in handheld devices. For instance, the Apple iPhone might change its screen orientation more reliably. A Nintendo Wiimote game controller could do away with its three-axis accelerometer -- the most expensive component -- and forget about the infrared emitter on the television.
The mini-motion sensor might also allow for nifty new tricks such as scrolling through web pages or viewing 3-D virtual objects from different angles based on moving a smartphone in space. Or a pen might digitally record whatever is written with it.
It might even lend a hand to more reliable GPS system based on motion sensing, said Michael Judy, a researcher at Analog Devices, the company behind the Wii's accelerometers.
As always, there's still a bit of a gap between lab and application. The necessary electric field in the prototype sensor required voltages around 1,000 volts, which might add power inefficiencies to handheld devices. Still, MIT researchers note that cell phone cameras use about 100 volts, and that a commercial version of their sensor would require less voltage.
Detecting the metal bead's oscillation also currently requires a miniature camera, but the MIT lab is working on a better optical sensor system that could squeeze into something like a CD player. Try not to breathe too loudly down their necks while they work, fellow geeks.
May I suggest "ten times less" be dropped from the English lexicon? I don't understand it. Ten times WHAT less? Ten times one percent less is 10% less. Did you mean less than one tenth as much? I am glad to see technology used to save money, time, and energy. I just didn't understand the math on that sentence.
@semperloco - If something costs $1.00 and a person figures out how to make the object cost ten times less then we can assume the new object will be $0.10 which is ten times less than a dollar. May I suggest you quit arguing semantics and join the rest of the English speaking community.
If we're going to talk semantics, my thing was the 'six-dimensional sensor'. Apparently what they mean is a six function sensor. Inventing a six-dimensional sensor would be way cooler than this.
Briligg, 6 degrees of freedom, hence 6 dimensional vectors of data. up/down, left/right, in/out, pitch, yaw, roll.
Might be a bit premature cost. They currently use a camera sensor, and HOPE to be able to elminate that -- well, get back to me when you do. The devil is often in the details.
Also, the voltage would seem to be a killer at this point. 1000 v ( Ten times more :) ) could be a real problem in the confined spaces of cellphones.
As to the semantics, I agree with semperioco -- ten times less is a nonesense statement. It's not confusing, it's just plain wrong.
Do you guys really come to Popsci just to make fun of the grammar used?? And here I was to read an article...
semperloco makes a valid point. Saying "X times less than ..." is just dumbing down the language, so that people who have a hard time with fractions think they understand what is being said.
Are they measuring the fluctuations in the magnetic field induced by the metal ball and in turn giving an output/directional command instead of measuring each separate change in tilt...or just watching where the ball goes with a camera? Well one sounds like a good idea to me too MIT, now just do it on a smaller scale, and try not to have to rely on a "camera" or only use one for specific applications. . .we dont need sub-millimeter precision ALL the time ;D
Sounds sort of like they're taking the recent updates to the camera/imaging industry (motion tracking) and applying it on a smaller scale, doesnt it?
I see our usual trolls are at it again... please DONT feed the trolls people!
If you wish to critique and point fingers instead of actually commenting on the subject being presented, you have the author's name at the top (but I warn you, people tend to ignore pointless ramble..and I tend to leave apostrophes out of my contractions) you could also email an editor. Issues with the current english language?...talk to merriam-webster.
This is a place for discussing the topic, not for playground shenanigans :P
How is it that ten times less = 1/10 ?
Twice as much means a 200% increase;
So 10 times less = 10*100% or 1000% decrease...
Semantics be damned sir!
I come here to read articles and perhaps discuss what I have read. I also hope to find informative articles, that are WELL WRITTEN. To my mind that means, correct spelling, and grammar, and avoidance of unnecessarily confusing language.
Since I logged on today I have witnessed 3 articles wherein the writing was extremely bad, and even facts were not well checked... for instance the article about the South Korean seafloor crawlbot...
According to the article it crawls along the seafloor at 98 ft/second. Do you see anything wrong with that?
(hint: thats almost 67 mph)
I am finished with this lowbrow , idiot site. When people cannot understand fractions, and they are the writers for this site, I find that unacceptable. For those who find this site adequate? Go chew your cud bessy.