Shaping Smarter Cities: Conquering Vertigo: MEMs In Augmented Reality

mouserI grew up in Chicago. It is my home town, and my parents still live there in the same house. Yes, I still cheer on the Chicago Cubs, believe Chicago-style pizza is the only kind worth eating, and think the Chicago skyline is the most beautiful in the world.

Recently, I went back home and attended a conference in the Chicago area where I was a speaker. Add the fact that my wife is a fifth-grade school teacher who has her summers off, I decided to take her with me for this trip. I told her that after my conference we would spend some time seeing the sights of Chicago.

One of the things she wanted to do was to go to the Skydeck deck at Willis Tower, a large skyscraper in Chicago. This building is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (442m), with the Skydeck is on the 103rd floor (412m). The Skydeck is unique in that it has several plexiglass boxes on the west side of the building that extend out 1.3m from the face of the building, daring visitors to step out and experience the feeling of standing suspended 103 floors over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River.

Being on the Skydeck is enough to make one experience vertigo—that odd sensation of feeling off-balance, dizzy, and like your head is spinning. When you experience vertigo, it makes the world seem like it is swaying and out of kilter, drifting to one direction or another as if you are being pulled away and down from what is your normal upright orientation. Fortunately, I did not experience any symptoms of vertigo during our time on the Skydeck, despite the dizzying view (Figure 1).

This made me glad because I had been suffering the effects of vertigo since December of this past year. It came on suddenly one day and stayed with me in various forms for about four to five months. It prohibited me from doing normal activities such as running and biking that I have always been involved in.

I got rid of vertigo by simply taking it easy and letting time heal my body’s issue.

Some technological developments promise many benefits, but like tall buildings, might also induce a case of vertigo. Augmented Reality (AR) projects computer-generated images and superimposes them into the user’s Field Of View (FOV), altering the real world and creating an enhanced visual sensory interface. Depending on the speed and contents of the additional visual stimuli, the potential exists for the mind to feel a case of vertigo. If AR is ever to become a popular tool for everyday use to aid people in their accomplishment of tasks, then design engineers must ensure that this psychophysical reaction is avoided by using motion sensors and finely designed circuits to provide a visually stabilized platform for the mind to experience.

Fortunately, there is a solution. One that has been developed by electronic design engineers to address this problem and many other related positional and orientation issues is MEMS technology. Micro-electrical mechanical systems technology uses extremely small sensorsthat incorporate an electromechanical structure and the supporting analog circuitry for conditioning signals obtained from the sensing element.

Recognized leaders in high-performance analog electronic components, including Analog Devices, are developing sensors to ensure that vertigo is never an issue in AR technologies. Analog Devices combines products, including data converters, amplifiers and linear products, Radio Frequency (RF) ICs, power management products with their sensors based on MEMS technology, to enable AR headsets to perform so that human dizziness is prevented by their dedication to solving the toughest engineering challenges. Analog Devices’ MEMS product portfolio includes accelerometers used to sense acceleration, gyroscopesto sense rotation, and inertial measurement units employed to sense multiple degrees of freedom combining multiple sensing types along multiple axes.

Analog Devices iSensor® MEMS inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors prevent AR-induced vertigo by allowing individual MEMs products to work together easily. This unique design employs multi-axis combinations of the previously mentioned precision gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers, and pressure sensors. The IMU effectively senses and processes multiple degrees of freedom, even in highly complex applications and under dynamic conditions. These plug-and-play solutions offer full factory calibration, embedded compensation and sensor processing, plus a simple programmable interface.

Take as a specific example the new ADIS16460 iSensor® MEMS IMU device. It is a complete inertial system that includes a tri-axial gyroscope and a tri-axial accelerometer. Each sensor in the ADIS16460 combines industry leading iMEMS® technology with signal conditioning that optimizes dynamic performance. It provides a simple, cost effective method for integrating accurate, multi-axis inertial sensing into industrial systems, especially when compared with the complexity and investment associated with discrete designs. All necessary motion testing and calibration are part of the production process at the factory, greatly reducing system integration time. Tight orthogonal alignment simplifies inertial frame alignment in navigation systems. The SPI and register structures provide a simple interface for data collection and configuration control.

The time is now to move forward and capture new ground in your Augmented Reality designs. Conquer any case of vertigo you might feel and ascend to new heights. Designing with MEMS and IMUs ensure the only heads that will swim are your bosses’when they finally realize how your designs conquer new pinnacles.

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