The accelerometer in the iPhone has created a new use model that is spawning new applications. Today, I saw one that I just had to tell you about. The new TG01 (also known as the T-01A) handset being marketed by NTT DoCoMo features a plug-in module that allows viewing of content in a unique way. Essentially, the small 4.1-inch VGA screen on the handset acts as a window for viewing a much larger, 2000-inch image. Move the handset to the right and you see a little bit more of this large image. Rotate the phone to landscape and move it down and reveal another part. This is cool!
Insight Media Consultant
The thin, bendable display consumes so little power that it operates on RF energy provided by a contactless reader. This means that the e-passport does not require batteries. In the absence of a signal from the RFID reader, the display does not show an image. When the passport is placed within about 4-inches of the reader, the RFID module automatically powers up. In the demo, the display presented a rotating image of the passport holder.
Two videos illustrating the functionality of the scrolling effect are available on-line at URL: www.engadget.com/2009/07/22/toshiba-tg01-gets-third-party-motion-sensor-attachment-for-large/.
The key element is the 7-axis inertial sensor from Usuda Research Institute & Systems Corp. Ltd. The so-called intellectual sensor module (UBN-800) includes a triaxial acceleration sensor, a biaxial angular velocity sensor and a biaxial geomagnetic sensor.
The Usuda module communicates to the TG01 through a USB interface. The memory capacity required by the Usuda module is 170 Kbytes, which allows the module software to run on the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system used by the TG01. Control is via the touch panel that is built in to the phone.
A variety of mobile products already include some form of motion sensing as part of their user interface. Motions are used to control the power management system, change music tracks, and as a means to enable a pedometer. It is accelerometers, with their capability to detect and measure motion, that enable these and related features.
Motion sensing is generally accomplished by one of two methods. The first is based on acceleration and angular velocity sensors using MicroElectroMechanical (MEMs) technology. The second is based on deducing changes in the images captured by camera systems.
If motion sensing is based on the use of cameras, the cost can generally be kept low, as there is no need to add new hardware to the mobile device. The approach is to process an image every 1/30 of a second, but this is not really fast enough to accurately capture motion. If the speed of processing can increase significantly, it is quite possible that this method will ultimately dominate motion-sensing technology.
In contrast, MEMs sensors allow tens of thousands of signals to be processed every second. The MEMs approach, therefore, allows superior motion capture, which explains the dominance of the approach.
The rapid increase in the utilization of MEMs accelerometers in mobile products translates into big business. For example, iSuppli reports that in 2008, one out of 11 handsets shipped worldwide included an accelerometer. Since the beginning of this year, several hundred phones have been introduced. Of these, one out of five included an accelerometer. Penetration is expected to increase in the second half of 2009, and by 2010, one out of three mobile phones shipped worldwide will include an accelerometer. Global revenue from sales of MEMS for mobile phones will rise from $460.9 million in 2008 to $780.6 million in 2010 and $1.6 billion in 2013.
Major suppliers of MEMS-based accelerometers include STMicroelectronics, Kionix, Freescale and ADI.