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Sensing the Squish

We’re used to touch being about locating one or more fingers or items on a surface. This is inherently a 2D process. Although much more richness is being explored for the long-term, one third dimension that seems closer in is pressure: how hard are we pushing down, and can we use that to, for instance, grab an object for dragging?

At the 2011 Touch Gesture Motion conference, one company that got a fair bit of attention was Read More → "Sensing the Squish"

Do IMU-Based Remotes Work?

One of the booths I stopped by at CES was Philips, who was demonstrating their uWand. Turns out, this isn’t that new a product, having been introduced in 2009-10 (clearly I wasn’t paying attention then). In their view, the market is only now catching up to this kind of technology, as is clear with the variety of Smart TV and gaming remotes being designed and marketed.

The uWand uses a different approach than some of the other devices, which tend to be either IMU-based or regular-camera-based. The uWand relies on an IR camera … Read More → "Do IMU-Based Remotes Work?"

An Easier-To-Build Unreleased Oscillator

MEMS technology is providing new ways to generate reliable frequencies that conventionally require bulky LC tanks and crystals. Granted, it’s early days (as other monolithic ideas are commercialized), but research proceeds apace, with bulk acoustic wave (BAW) technology now being added to the use of actual mechanical moving parts as candidates for commercialization.

The challenge with an approach requiring a moving part can be summed up in one word: release. While release is required for most MEMS, it’s always … Read More → "An Easier-To-Build Unreleased Oscillator"

A Caveman Without MEMS

A while back, MIG director Karen Lightman posted a blog entry about life without MEMS (if you haven’t read it, I’d recommend doing so before proceeding). After a chuckle, my first thought was, “Wow, how the hell did we ever live five years ago without dying of anxiety??” Then it occurred to me to take things back further than five years. What would the life of a caveman (or –woman) be like given the opportunity for tools to improve their … Read More → "A Caveman Without MEMS"

A Vote for Java

I don’t know this for sure, but I can imagine that some marketing folks at STMicroelectronics were less than thrilled by the high-profile Java issues ricocheting through the airwaves a couple weeks ago. My colleague Jim Turley engendered some back-and-forth with his analysis of the appropriateness of Java in embedded systems in particular.

It was not but a few days after this had barely disappeared from the headlines that ST announced their STM32Java development kit for developing Java applications on embedded … Read More → "A Vote for Java"

Not-So-New Touch

These days we talk about touch technology as if it’s a new thing. Actually, we’ve been using touch for years (since 1994, to be specific) – on our laptops. (OK, I know, a lot of you/us don’t like the touchpad, but it certainly does predate the touchscreen.)

I talked with Fred Caldwell from one of the oldest names in that field, Synaptics, at the Touch Gesture Motion conference last month. They used to make the touchpads; you may remember their name on a laptop you might have had long ago. They … Read More → "Not-So-New Touch"

Molly to the Rescue

Graphene has excited technologists for years now, with its promise of high mobility, strength, and flexibility. Except for one big problem: no bandgap. So you can’t really turn off your devices.

Out of left field, then, comes something completely different at IEDM: MoS2. Deposited using CVD over a large area, a single layer configures itself as a layer of molybdenum sandwiched between two layers of sulfur. It’s flexible, it has high mobility – and it has a 1.8-V bandgap.

A team from MIT, the US Army Research Lab, and … Read More → "Molly to the Rescue"

Sensor Fusion Sea Change

As I have observed and listened to the things that folks in the sensor fusion business (whether purveyors of sensors or sensor-agnostic) have been saying, there’s something of a change in the air, and it was reinforced at CES. The focus of fusion is shifting.

At the very bottom of the fusion stack are complex mathematical relationships that turn, for example, individual sensor readings into higher-level orientation information. Clearly, there’s been a period where getting that right and getting it all to be computed in real time was an effort. But that time … Read More → "Sensor Fusion Sea Change"

Nanowire Advancements

Nanowires are a perennial IEDM topic, and this year was no exception. Three papers in particular were identified as standing out.

One of them relates to efforts to work germanium into the mix for pFETs. Such work is all about mobility, and a team from MIT achieved twice the mobility of biaxially-strained planar Si. This was done using biaxially-strained germanium that was then patterned into wires using e-beam lithography, which relaxed the lateral strain. The result wasn’t uniaxial strain, but asymmetric. HfO2Read More → "Nanowire Advancements"

Smallest Accelerometer

At the same time that Bosch Sensortec announced its orientation sensor, they also announced their BMA355 accelerometer, which is distinguished by its size. Prior to this, the smallest footprint available for an accelerometer was 2×2 mm2. This guy is 1.2×1.5 mm2.

This was done via a die shrink. The MEMS is placed over the ASIC; the ASIC is more or less bonded straight down to its leads; it’s essentially chip-scale packaging.

In fact, they could have made the ASIC … Read More → "Smallest Accelerometer"

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