Motion algorithms lift MEMS-based remotes

September 16, 2011 // By R. Colin Johnson
Armed with a new deal to integrate its MEMS sensor algorithms into Texas Instruments's ZigBee-based radio frequency for consumer electronics (RF4CE) hardware platform—RemoTI—Hillcrest Laboratories Inc., hopes to penetrate further into the fast growing markets for MEMS-based motion-control interfaces for Smart TV, streaming video, motion-based gaming and 3-D gesture control.

"Our Freespace MotionEngine improves the performance of original equipment manufacturers' devices by squeezing every bit of functionality from MEMS-based user interfaces," said Chad Lucien, Hillcrest senior vice president of sales and marketing. "Now OEMs can choose TI's chips for RF4CE remotes as well as Broadcom for Bluetooth-based remotes, which we hope will significantly increase our design-ins to smart TVs, set-top boxes, gaming consoles and other gesture-based user interfaces."

Last year, Hillcrest Labs (Rockville, Md.) announced the integration of its MEMS sensor algorithms—the Freespace MotionEngine—with Broadcom Corp.'s digital-TV on-a-chip and Bluetooth on-a-chip, as well as major design-wins with the LG's Smart TVs, SMK's Smart TV remotes, and most recently for the second-generation of the popular Roku set-top box for Internet protocol television (IPTV). The company also licensed its intellectual property to Playstation-maker, Sony Corop. and "amicably resolved" a dispute with Wii-maker Nintendo Corp. regarding its motion-processing algorithms.

The latest incarnation of the Freespace MotionEngine has also improved its modularity, enabling OEMs to run its motion-processing algorithms inside the remote control itself, in the USB dongle that wirelessly communicates with the remote, or on the application processor inside the Smart TV, gaming console, mobile phone or other device.

"As we gain more design wins for a greater variety of devices, we needed to make the Freespace MotionEngine more flexible," said Lucien. "For instance, now Smart TVs can run the gesture recognition algorithms on their own application processor, thus cost-reducing and extending the battery life of their remotes, which now just have to transmit raw sensor data from the MEMS chips."

Hillcrest is also offering pre-assembled sensor modules complete with MEMS accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers, plus a microcontroller running the Freespace MotionEngine, for easy integration into their own gesture-based remotes. Or OEMs can choose to license its Scoop Pointer, which is a complete reference design for gesture-based remote controls. The Scoop Pointer even includes a red-laser pointer so it can also be used