Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stabilizing compass with the accelerometer

Let's explore sensor fusion possibilities of the compass and the accelerometer a bit further. In the previous post we used the compass to calculate the gravity vector when the accelerometer is subject to motion acceleration too. Now let's support the compass with the accelerometer and create a stabilized compass.

As we discussed before, the Earth's magnetic field is a 3D vector which has two components: the horizontal element that points to toward the magnetic North (this is what we use for compass) and the magnetic inclination that has variable degree but points mostly down on the Northern Hemisphere. Now if the magnetic sensor is not parallel to the Earth's surface, the z component (pointing downward) of the Earth's magnetic vector is projected into the x and y axes of the phone's magnetic sensor causing the compass to rotate when the device is tilted. Try for example this great and popular compass application. Point the compass toward the North then tilt the device left and right. You will see that the compass rotates even though the longer axis of the device (the y axis in Android API) still points toward the North Pole.


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