CHANGE, OF COURSE, is a constant in electronics, and at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, our editors found evidence aplenty of the shifts under way in CE. Here are 10 technologies that we’re betting will alter the consumer electronics landscape this year.
Motion processors harness microelectromechanical system sensors to ascertain not only the orientation of a device, but also its heading and absolute location in three-dimensional space. Fusing the data streams from accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers (compasses) and altimeters (barometric pressure sensors) allows almost anything to be tracked. Gestures thus can control hardware (from game consoles to vehicle navigation systems) or inform software (from security protocols to location-based services, or LBS).
Once the domain of suitcase-sized, spinning gimbaled tops like those used to keep spacecraft and naval vessels on-course, MEMS inertial sensors are now small enough, inexpensive enough and low-power enough for deployment in even the tiniest mobile devices.
Almost overnight, MEMS inertial sensors have become standard issue for everything from drop detection (to lock up a hard drive before it impacts the floor, for example) to gesture recognition (such to activate Siri by merely bringing the iPhone 4S to your ear). Smart TVs are also upgrading to MEMS-laden remotes that more accurately control on-screen cursors by virtue of motion-processing algorithms licensed from Hillcrest Labs and Movea.
In 2012, mobile device makers will begin integrating complete inertial navigation units housing pre-calibrated accelerometers, gyros and magnetometers. Invensense recently announced a complete INU in a single, 4-mm-square package, enabling almost any mobile device to offer LBS, augmented reality and asset tracking. — R. Colin Johnson