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01.October 2014

Sharp launches new, more compact gesture sensors. Defining the state-of-the art in a rapidly expanding market.

Sharp launches new, more compact gesture sensors. Defining the state-of-the art in a rapidly expanding market.

01.Oct 2014

Sensors from Sharp Devices Europe such as the new GP2AP052A00F and GP2AP054A00F gesture sensors are fuelling a new wave of applications that are responsible for the ongoing double-digit growth in the gesture sensor market. Gestures have refined the human-machine interface, enhancing usability for existing device types while also enabling completely new products and innovative use cases.

The technology behind gesture sensors has been available for some time. But gestures have only recently appeared as a user interface feature on mainstream consumer electronics. Smartphone makers are now integrating gesture sensors into their devices, allowing users to accept calls, clear message notifications, and more via hand movements.

A number of factors have contributed to this technology’s recent upswing in popularity. Sharp has, for instance, been able to bring its considerable engineering resources to bear on this upcoming user interface trend. Previously, gesture sensors posed challenges to manufactures in a number of areas. For mobile devices, size and power consumption frequently proved to be limiting factors. In all applications, accuracy, reliability and cost continue to be key issues. Technological advances have now made it possible for much smaller devices to integrate these types of sensors.

Sensing the opportunity for a triple-play

Sharp’s unique approach has been to include three different functions on a single sensor chip, resulting in several advantages for device makers. Sharp was the first to develop a component that integrates an ambient light sensor (ALS), gesture sensor, and proximity sensor all in a single package. Since the sensor chip brings along its own LED infrared emitter, manufacturers no longer need devote time and resources to selecting a suitable infrared LED for their sensors. This lowers costs and increases accuracy and reliability. The ALS sensor enables innovative features to control the brightness of the LCD backlight. The all-in-one design also saves valuable device real estate, allowing for more compact designs without sacrificing functionality. 

How gesture sensors work

A gesture sensor works by sending out an invisible ray of light in the infrared spectrum, which then bounces off objects in front of the device. The quantity of reflected infrared light that returns to the sensor is measured by photodiodes, allowing the location of the respective object, such as a hand, to be calculated. As the hand moves, the intensity of the reflected infrared light changes and the sensor detects motion.

Applications

In this rapidly growing space, there is a nearly infinite number of potential applications yet to be envisioned. There are entire devices types that may gain a new life through gesture sensors, such as digital signage. The public spaces these displays occupy are often unsuitable for other input devices, and touchscreens can also be problematic here. A gesture sensor can allow for easy scrolling and menu selection without requiring physical contact or devices that can be subject to physical wear or abuse. Other areas where gestures will become increasingly widespread include home appliances, lighting, and sanitary installations, and of course mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

Outlook

According to market research firm NPD DisplaySearch, twice as many gesture sensing solutions are expected to be shipped in 2015 as in 2013. In a market set to see demand double, Sharp is already well-positioned with current production output in the millions of units per month and a healthy market share. Sharp expects future sensor innovations to offer even more performance in ever-more-compact form factors. 

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