Windows 8's tablet-centric focus means that it's going to pick up a lot of new features to support hardware particular to those devices - Microsoft's Gavin Gear took to the Building Windows 8 blog today to explain more about how Windows 8 will treat accelerometers, gyrometers, and other sensors when they're present in hardware.

Some of Windows 8's sensor support is basic stuff that has been in most modern tablets and laptops for awhile now - support for ambient light sensors (already present in Windows 7) and automatic screen orientation rotation is pretty old hat at this point. Microsoft's treatment of 3D motion sensors is more interesting - integrating a gyroscope into your hardware is one thing, but making software that filters out movement "noise" (for example, slight shaking of a tablet as a user breathes or walks) while still responding to input quickly and smoothly is quite another.

To solve this problem, Microsoft has implemented something it calls "sensor fusion," which takes raw data from an accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetometer and synthesizes it into an accurate 3D compass and 3D inclinometer, and also uses that input to detect device orientation. Apps that still want to use the unfiltered data from individual sensors (Microsoft's example use case was a pedometer) still have access to it, but apps that require more precision in motion can use this combination of movement sensors to get a better experience. Sensor APIs have been made available to and Metro app developers as part of the new Windows Runtime (WinRT), as well to traditional Win32 app developers.

To make use of these features, hardware manufacturers will need to implement sensors that meet Windows' certification guidelines. Sensors built to these standards, which were introduced to the USB-IF in July of 2011, will be supported by a class driver in Windows, meaning that they won't rely on third-party drivers to operate. Mobile broadband chips and USB 3.0 controllers are two other types of devices that will see new class drivers in Windows 8.

For more information, the full post is linked below for your convenience.

Source: Building Windows 8 blog



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  • B3an - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - link

    Does any other OS have anything like the "sensor fusion" seen in Win 8?

    Either way getting this to work on all kinds of devices isn't a simple task. Things are extremely simple for Apple, they have a very limited amount of devices to support and know exactly what hardware will be used. MS on the other hand have to get things like this working with all different kinds of hardware and devices and create industry standards and testing kits. It's also nice to see it works with just one built-in driver.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I'm not sure whether this is Microsoft's take on something that others are doing or an innovation in the realm of motion control - the post makes it sound like the latter, but there are plenty of companies willing to market existing ideas as if they've never been done before. :-)
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    That's why they're requiring devices to comply with their specifications. Still not a trivial task.
  • name99 - Sunday, January 29, 2012 - link

    What do you consider "sensor fusion" to be?

    Apple allows one to access sensors at different levels, from the raw data to fully synthesized orientation and orientation deltas. The most trivial version of this is geolocation, but obviously there is plenty more.
    THAT is also what MS considers sensor fusion to be.

    The variety of devices supported is irrelevant. The whole damn POINT of an OS is to put in place standardized SPIs that hide this variety --- when I write to a file I don't worry about the brand of hard drive that the file is going to.
    The fusion layer should query each device using standard SPIs that talk to the drivers supplied by vendors. MS' part should be limited to defining those SPIs and the fusion algorithms.

    The fact that there was a sad period from the mid-80s to maybe the late 2000s where MS lost control of device HW doesn't change that fact. As far as I can tell, MS is as pissed off as any user about the insane complexity of the PC HW space, and is doing everything it damn well can to make sure it doesn't happen again in the Win Tablet space.

    Meaning, yes, there may be a variety of hardware, but it is the job of the vendor to make sure that the HW conforms EXACTLY to the Win SPI --- not just to support what the vendor feels like and half-ass the rest.
    It will be very interesting, as Win8 HW comes out, to see if MS has learned its lesson or not. It can either do what it did throughout the 90s, and put in one hack after another to "support" crappy hardware, or it can put its foot down and say, "No Acer, no ASUS, no HP --- your POS tablet doesn't support what we told you to support so you don't get to claim it is Win8 compliant". This matters because it is obvious to all but the most rabid haters that Apple is on the way up in the compute world, and the PC model is on the way down. People want devices that "just work" and are not much interested in the fact that, yes, your HW has some special non-standard mode that provides 3MegaWhatsits more than the spec --- and also doesn't work with normal software.

    Is Ballmer willing to put end-users first, rather than the HW vendors? We shall see.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Monday, January 30, 2012 - link

    Number of devices to support is a trivial matter given that hardware needs to support software and driver calls in the first place.
  • marc1000 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    will windows 8 have the ability to drive multiple inputs/outputs SIMULTANEOUSLY? today we have computers powerfull enough to be used by 3 or 4 people at the same time, but only 1 keyboard/display may be active at any time.

    it would be nice to be able to play a game on a screen with a gamepad controller, while someone else browses the web on the other screen using the keyboard.

    until windows is able to recognize multiple simultaneous inputs/outputs, everything else does not matter. we don't need a tablet/cellphone experience on the PC, we have tablets/phones for that. what we need is the real holodeck, a computer capable of serving more than 1 person at the same time, displaying different programs and accepting different inputs.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    You're SORT OF describing what happens in an enterprise environment using Terminal Services - many client machines can connect to a single server and perform different tasks simultaneously, logged in as different users. Obviously you've got some sort of local version of that in mind - how do the users connect to the computer? Are they both sitting at a desk staring at separate monitors?

    Basically, what you're thinking about kind of exists already, but logistics (and, I suspect, a desire to keep "server" features like multiple Remote Desktop sessions confined to much more expensive versions of the OS) keep it from happening.

    Windows 8's goal isn't to bring tablet/phone features to the PC (though that is happening) so much as it's bringing Windows/Microsoft features to tablets (Microsoft is also probably hoping that its success would create a halo that extends to Windows Phone).
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link


    P.s. "This comment is apparently spam and we do not allow spam comments." Way to go spam filtering system!
  • marc1000 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    But i want this without the need for a thin client/second pc. With really independent inputs/outputs it could be possible to have 1 strong computer to serve the whole house (think about wireless displays/voice input and we wil be near the "Jarvis" experience from iron-man movies).

    This is way more natural than having to create remote sessions, but with each session behaving like a standalone computer.

    Personal computing needs this kind of innovation and experience to enable a new momentum like we saw at nineties with the internet revolution. If you think about it, we are using computers in the same easy as 20 years ago, tough now it sure looks prettier.
  • marc1000 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Same way*

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