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Hillcrest offers motion control for phones, tablets

Mon, 03/26/2012 - 2:36pm
Monica Alleven, Wireless Week

Hillcrest Labs might not be a household name, but it’s hoping to make its Freespace technology a common component in smartphones and tablets. The company today announced it will make Freespace available to manufacturers and component suppliers.

The company’s new Freespace MotionEngine for Mobile is an embedded software solution that manages the performance of motion sensors found in many of today’s smartphones and tablets – namely accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes. Besides gaming applications, Hillcrest said there are myriad uses for motion in phones and tablets, including indoor navigation, fitness monitoring and augmented reality.

Chad Lucien, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Hillcrest Labs, said the company’s software works with sensors provided by a variety of suppliers, which is good for OEMs that want an alternative to using the software provided by the sensor companies, which usually tie the software to their own components. An OEM can write the software itself, but the challenge there is keeping up with all the sensors that come to market and building new versions, he said.

Another key to Hillcrest’s technology is managing the power consumption; components or apps can be turned off to save on power. For example, if a phone is sitting face down, it can power down the motion sensors and lesson the draw; if it’s in a briefcase instead of someone’s hands, the same thing can happen.

Hillcrest has signed up a customer for its MotionEngine in mobile but can’t disclose the identity.

In the past, Hillcrest has licensed its technology to companies like LG Electronics, Roku and Sony Computer Entertainment. The company won’t go into detail but said it “amicably resolved” an IP dispute with Nintendo Wii in 2009.

There’s no reason Hillcrest’s technology won’t work with iOS or BlackBerry, but it’s focused right now on Android and Windows 8, Lucien said.

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