Games and Navigation Driving Rapid Gyroscope Growth in Mobile Handsets

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The market for gyroscopes in mobile handsets is forecast to grow by 150% between 2010 and 2011 according to a new study from IMS Research. Mobile games and applications are likely to be the first use case to leverage gyroscopes in mobile handsets but more complex use cases such as indoor navigation are expected to follow by 2013.

In handsets, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) gyroscopes are used to detect a device's orientation. Gyroscopes were recently thrust into the limelight following the announcement that Apple's iPhone 4 would feature a MEMS gyroscope. "While the iPhone is the first to market with a gyroscope, I expect other handset designs to include gyroscopes before the end of 2010," remarked IMS Research analyst Chris Schreck. "Accelerometers have really validated the use case for motion sensing in handsets, and I believe numerous handset vendors are interested in the more sophisticated motion sensing possible with both an accelerometer and gyroscope. Further to the point, I expect the fight for application developer loyalties to push software platforms and handset OEMs to adopt gyros quickly, as each player competes to provide the most compelling developer offering."

Early use cases for gyroscopes in mobile handsets have been games that also leverage the presence of an accelerometer to sense motion along 6 axes. This allows a user to interact with a handset by moving the device left or right, backwards or forwards, or up or down, in addition to the tilting users have grown accustomed to with accelerometers. This opens up a range of new gaming and application possibilities, and early examples, such as Eliminate: Gun Range from ngmoco highlight the possibilities well.

The 6 axis motion sensing gyroscopes and accelerometers enable makes more sophisticated use cases possible as well. "In 2013, expect to see motion sensors playing a role in indoor navigation," Schreck continued. "In places where a GPS signal can't provide high enough accuracy, the presence of an accelerometer and gyroscope would allow a device to effectively sense your steps and their direction. The hope among market players is to provide accurate location data within 1 meter. The market is still years from developing the algorithms required to accurately process or the maps detailed enough to utilize the sensor data, but there is obviously enormous interest in the topic. If the business model for indoor location based services is solidified, I expect the technological hurdles will be overcome."

Location based augmented reality and user interface innovations are some of the other expected applications of gyroscopes in mobile handsets noted by Schreck. IMS Research forecasts that annual shipments of gyroscopes in mobile handsets will increase to over 200 million by 2014, capturing over one third of the smartphone market.

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Tags: gyroscopes  iphone 4  microelectromechanical systems  indoor  axis 

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