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Expecting its Windows 8 operating system to end up on tablets, Microsoft is gearing up its next generation platform to include improved sensor support. Dubbed "sensor fusion", Microsoft illustrates their journey and experimentation with sensors on Windows 8 blog.
The goal of sensor fusion, as Microsoft describes it, is to create a better end-user experience by combining input from multiple sensors in sophisticated ways. Gavin Gear, a program manager on the device connectivity team, explains in the blog post:
It turns out that an accelerometer, magnetometer, and a gyro can complement each-other's weaknesses, effectively filling in gaps in data and data responsiveness. Using a combination of these sensors it is possible to create a better, more responsive, and more fluid experience than the sensors can provide individually. Combining the input of multiple sensors to produce better overall results is a process we call sensor fusion.
Microsoft's approach for extracting useful sensory input hardly seems novel. Gyroscopes, magnetometers and accelerometers have been standard-issue on many smart phones and tablets for some time now. In fact, such sensors can even be found recent PC laptops running older versions of Windows. Also, iOS has had Core Motion and Android has had its own version of sensor fusion for a while.
However, Gear says the "magic" of sensor fusion is Microsoft's ability to mathematically combine sensor data for sophisticated outputs based on nine distinct axes. The results of this approach are reduced jerkiness, less jitter and smoother transitions during substantial changes to tilt, rotation and acceleration.
If you've ever had your phone's compass go haywire, that probably sounds like a good thing.
Microsoft's sensor fusion can be achieved through software-based algorithms across multiple sensors or done on a hardware-level by a single chip which provides all of the necessary sensors. Virginia-based STI, a manufacturer whom Microsoft has been working with on the technology, has produced such a chip for use in future devices. Their development board is current being used for Windows 8 testing purposes.
To ensure users have a quality experience with motion-enabled games and software, Microsoft has been working with hardware companies to create a set of guidelines which will ensure a minimum level of accuracy and reliability. This will likely be key as the numbers of and types of sensors found in PCs will continue to vary a great deal until such components become standard in all computers.