Algorithm could replace touch screens with MEMS control

PORTLAND, Ore. — A new type of MEMS-based user interface enables 12 different device control functions while also eliminating expensive touch screens.

Instead, a tri-axis accelerometer developed by Kionix Inc. (Ithica, N.Y.) uses embedded algorithms to detect single- or double-taps on the six faces of a consumer electronic device. “Our newest algorithm is what we call directional tap and directional double tap,” said Eric Eisenhut, vice president for sales and marketing at Kionix. The approach provides the “ability to sense from which direction the tap originated, the right side of the device, the left side, the front, the top, the bottom or the back.”

Kionix characterized users' tap patterns from all six directions and created algorithms that run on its three-axis accelerometer. The algorithms detect both the direction of the tap, and whether it was a single of double tap. It then enables 12 possible actions performed by consumer electronic devices.

“Directional tap and double tap will open up a whole new way of constructing user interfaces for consumer electronic devices like cellphones and portable music players,” Eisenhut claimed.

For instance, a single front tap could silence a ringing phone or a double tap could send it to voice mail, eliminating the need for an expensive touch screen.

For touch screen phones and music players, the tap-detection algorithms embedded in the Kionix accelerometer could also eliminated the need for a menu bar, instead allowing up to 12 menu items to be encoded as direction or double taps.

According to Kionix, accelerometers are already being used in cellphones to take advantage of built-in algorithms to perform automatic portrait-to-landscape screen rotation, to detect drops as well as for power management functions like stand-by mode when not moving or power-on when moving.

Kionix is currently designing new algorithms with specific applications for emergng industries like healthcare devices. The company is also designing new accelerometers, gyros and magnetometers for applications that require all three MEMS sensors in a single device.

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