The accelerometer is a built-in electronic component that measures tilt and motion. It is also capable of detecting rotation and motion gestures such as swinging or shaking.
The most common use for it is to activate auto screen rotation on mobile devices when the user changes their orientation from portrait to landscape or vice-versa.
Another modern application for the accelerometer is to control the mobile device music player with gestures (Sony Ericsson Shake control or Samsung Motion play technologies).
Accelerometers are also utilized for enriching the gaming controls (navigating by tilting the device instead of by pressing keys).
Popular mobile phone feature based on an accelerometer include:
- • Turn-to-mute. Allows a user to mute an incoming call, silence an alarm or pause the mobile music player simply by turning the device face down
- • Raise-to-wake. When the phone is lifted the screen is turned on automatically
Accelerometers have many uses in industry and science. Highly sensitive accelerometers are used in inertial navigation systems for aircraft and missiles. Vibration in rotating machines is monitored by accelerometers. They are used in tablet computers and digital cameras so that images on screens are always displayed upright. In unmanned aerial vehicles, accelerometers help to stabilise flight.
When two or more accelerometers are coordinated with one another, they can measure differences in proper acceleration, particularly gravity, over their separation in space—that is, the gradient of the gravitational field. Gravity gradiometry is useful because absolute gravity is a weak effect and depends on the local density of the Earth, which is quite variable.
Single- and multi-axis accelerometers can detect both the magnitude and the direction of the proper acceleration, as a vector quantity, and can be used to sense orientation (because the direction of weight changes), coordinate acceleration, vibration, shock, and falling in a resistive medium (a case in which the proper acceleration changes, increasing from zero). Micromachined microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) accelerometers are increasingly present in portable electronic devices and video-game controllers, to detect changes in the positions of these devices.
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