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Gyroscope in Smartphones

April 21, 2012
by Lim Pei Hao

21 April 2012 – A gyroscope plays a significant role in the gaming arena for game consoles as well as smartphones. Smartphones with gyroscope support are able provide the player a richer experience in handling the game controls than a smartphone without it. Back in June 2010, Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone to offer gyroscope support, which is the Apple iPhone 4 we know today.

A mechanical gyroscope is a device consisting of a small spinning wheel that is mounted inside two circular metallic rings that are perpendicular to each other.  The spinning wheel would continue spinning on its axis regardless of the alignment of the outer rings.

According to Wikipedia, it is primarily used in measuring or maintaining orientation. Thus, this nifty device is able to detect angular movements such as the rotation around the X-axis, rotation around the Y-axis and the rotation around the Z-axis or also known as roll, yard and pitch in layman’s terms.

On the other hand, an accelerometer is only able to detect three linear axes of vectors, including left-right (X-axis), top-bottom (Y-axis) and up-down (Z-axis). Unlike a gyroscope, it measures translation of direction and cannot detect if a device made a full spin or is experiencing inertial change.

Inside MEMS

Mechanical and Electronics Engineering today have managed to transform the mechanical gyroscope into a Microelectromechanical system (MEMS), also known as vibrating structure gyroscope. So, instead of having a spinning wheel inside the microchip, a vibrating mass is placed in the center of the chip. The mass will be vibrated whenever an electrical signal goes through it. Moving the phone will cause the changes of electrical signals that are picked by the sensors. The sensors will send instructions to be interpreted by the software to provide the necessary feedback to the user.

When combining both the accelerometer and the gyroscope, you will have a total of 6-axis motion sensing that is able to have precise motion detection by simply moving the phone naturally. This creates an opportunity for game developers to utilise the motion sensing capability of the phone to create games that uses motion control instead of on-screen controls.

For example, in a first person shooter game, the player can navigate around the gameplay by tilting and moving the phone instead of using the on-screen controls. On the other hand, developers could give player a different perspective on solving a puzzle, where the player could explore the three dimensional model in a realistic manner by tilting or twisting the phone.

A number of games from developer Gameloft offer gyroscope controls for both the iOS and Android platforms including N.O.V.A., Modern Combat: Sandstorm and Asphalt 6. Other games include Doodle Jump, Temple Run, Gyroblox (iOS) and Zen Bound 2 Universal (iOS) also supports motion sensing. In addition, augmented reality apps such as Sky Map (Android) and Wikituide also utilise some aspect of the gyroscope, allowing discovery and exploration by simply moving the phone around.

The application of the gyroscope in smartphones is certainly cool, but the small number of apps and games that fully utilise gyroscope technology is somewhat disappointing. We would expect to see more use of the gyroscope in future apps.

" Giroskop memainkan peranan penting dalam arena permainan untuk permainan konsol  dan telefon pintar. Telefon pintar dengan sokongan giroskop dapat menyediakan pemain pengalaman yang menarik dalam mengendalikan kawalan permainan berbanding telefon pintar tanpanya. pada bulan Jun 2010, Steve Jobs mengumumkan bahawa iPhone pertama yang menawarkan giroskop, Ianya adalah Apple iPhone 4 yang kita tahu hari ini "


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