What is the gyroscope inside the iPad 2

One of the new additions to the iPad 2 is the inclusion of a gyroscope, something which has been inherited from the iPhone 4.

Simply, the gyroscope together with the device’s accelerometer improves motion sensing accuracy and allows the iPad to measure in which direction you are moving/rotating it in space (roll, pitch and yaw), how much and how fast.

In technical terms, a gyroscope is a device used to measure or maintain orientation, and it’s the former that’s of interest to us here.

Gyroscopes can be large mechanical devices; however the iPhone 4 and now the iPad 2 use a very smart microscopic version of it, called a MEMS gyroscope. MEMS stands for ‘micro-electro-mechanical systems’, and is the technology of combining mechanical parts in a very small scale with electronic circuits.

The MEMS gyroscope is a microscopic vibrating structure gyroscope integrated on a chip. The one included in the iPhone 4 is a chip made by STMicroelectronics labeled AGD1 2022 FP6AQ, for measurement in three axes (X, Y and Z). You can see below how intricate and impressive these devices are from an electron microscope image of the part found in the iPhone, and now in the iPad.

MEMS gyroscopes are already in use in cars for roll-over detection and navigation systems, in game controllers such as the Wii Remote Plus and in camera image stabilization systems. Also, Apple is not the only one using these parts in tablets and phones; you will increasingly find them in other devices, such as in the Acer Android tablet.

So what does this mean for end users? Well, the combination of the already included 3-axis accelerometer and now the 3-axis gyro will allow developers to write applications taking advantage of these advanced special motion sensing abilities.

This would lead to better motion sensing games and applications, e.g. accurate driving games or augmented reality applications.