In advance response to those who would misread the title to this article, it’s the tricks that are stupid, not the laptop!
I just started a new job this week heading up the graphics department of a small printing company. I had become accustomed to having a laptop at my disposal at my old job — an aging 500MHz PowerBook G4 — so my new employer sweetened his offer to lure me to the new job with the promise of a spiffy new PowerBook. The new one runs at 1.5GHz, and while the speed difference is impressive and reason enough to not look back after the upgrade, some of the other features, like the automatic screen dimming, lighted keyboard, Combo drive, standard BlueTooth and AirPort, etc… are pretty cool too.
One of the things the guy at the Mac shop mentioned when he was showing it to me was the “Sudden Motion Sensor” feature, which uses several sensors in the case to detect sudden changes in position, and will park the hard drive heads to keep them from crashing into the drive platters. I hope I’ll never need that feature, and really didn’t think much about it, but of course some people just aren’t able to leave a feature like that alone. Amit Singh has figured out how to gather data generated by those sensors…
While the PowerBook only uses the AMS as a defensive measure to prevent accidental damage to the disk drive, such sensors could have a variety of uses. In particular, they have been considered an alternative input methods in user interfaces for video game controllers, phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices. While it is to be seen if they will be successful in these areas, such use at least has a novelty value
He’s even built a couple of silly little apps that make use of the sensors.
AMSVisualizer A graphical application that displays a 3-D picture of a PowerBook. The picture’s orientation is a real-time approximation of the PowerBook’s physical orientation. Thus, the on-screen picture moves with the movement of the AMS-equipped PowerBook.
Stable Window A graphical application that creates a window displaying a bicycle wheel. The window is “stable” in the sense that if you rotate the AMS-equipped PowerBook left or right, the window compensates by rotating itself by an equal amount in the opposite direction.
Running StableWindow is the wierdest thing; a window’s edges are just supposed to be aligned with the edges of the screen; seeing something other than that is just… wierd. But some of the… um… “practical” applications for this sound kinda fun. I catch no end of grief from my wife & kids about using body english when I’m playing FA-18 Hornet on the desktop machine at home; how cool would it be for those body movements to actually control the simulator! Then I could truthfully tell them that leaning in my chair actually does help!