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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Motion-sensitive laptop developed
BT Balance laptop
Tilting the laptop moves a cursor
A motion-sensitive laptop which can be controlled much like a Nintendo Wii remote is under development.

The tablet PC laptop has been adapted to respond to a user when moving the machine up or down, side to side, or forwards and backwards.

It is hoped the BT Balance system can help people with disabilities or the elderly, for whom using a keyboard or mouse can be difficult.

The technology is under development at BT's research labs in Ipswich.

BT researcher David Chatting said: "We want to give people access to services in as simple a manner as possible.

"PCs are still very complicated. We are interested in the older user who is slightly fearful of this technology. The PC, monitor and mouse puts them off."

He said the idea was to make using a computer as easy as using an Etch-A-Sketch toy.

Simple flip

The system can be used to read through books or documents, turning pages with a simple flip of the monitor.

Maps could be read by tilting the screen up or down, left or right, corresponding to moving the map north, south, west or east.

Adam Oliver, head of BT Retail's age and disability research, said it could be useful for "someone needing to use their laptop in conditions where trying to type or manipulate a tiny keyboard is tricky or where they are unable to use both hands".

BT Balance
The software interprets the motion of the machine

He added: "It could even be for someone just using their laptop on a crowded train."

There are essentially two components to BT Balance - a microchip called an accelerometer, which works in much the same way as the balance system in the human ear, and a software interface which interprets the motion data.

The accelerometer is a machine on a chip, known as a Micro Electro Mechanical System (MEMs), which works by detecting changes in the acceleration and gravity of an object compared to the static gravity field of the earth.

The objects which are moved are micro sensors on the chip too small to be seen by the human eye.

We are able to discriminate between a tip to the left, or right or was the device knocked, nudged or shaken
David Chatting, BT researcher

By measuring the amount of static acceleration due to gravity, the chip knows the angle a device is being tilted at with respect to the earth. By sensing the amount of dynamic acceleration, it can calculate the direction the device is moving.

Accelerometers are used in cars to detect when to inflate an airbag, in devices like the Nintendo Wii controller and in Apple laptops to detect if the computer is being dropped.

BT has embedded the chip into a tablet PC and has written software to interpret the data and control the cursor and the programs.

Mr Chatting said: "This is still a research project. We are able to discriminate between a tip to the left, or right or was the device knocked, nudged or shaken.

"The demo we have running can help people read books on a laptop, a photograph application to orientate the picture dependent on how the laptop is held.

"We are also interested in developing communication tools via BT Balance. For example, 'How can someone remote from a parent or loved one use it for day to day tasks - such as leaving messages?'."

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