12-axis sensor adds auto screen orientation to this older tablet PC

screen-orientation-sensors

[Mal'oo] has one of those laptop computers whose screen swivels to turn it into a tablet. But the thing is a few years old and didn’t come with an orientation sensor that changes the screen between landscape and desktop, but also knows which side is up. His solution was to add a 12-axis sensor via the mini PCI express header.

The hardware comes in two pieces. The first is a mini-PCIe card to USB interface. This is handy if you want to add a Bluetooth dongle permanently to your computer. But he’s got other things in mind for it. After hacking the BIOS (which for some reason limits what you can plug into this slot) he moved onto the second part which is a USB 12-axis sensor. This picture shows the wires before they were soldered to the USB card. [Mal'oo] couldn’t just plug it in because the sensor wouldn’t have been oriented correctly in relation to the computer. The final product is quite response, as shown in the clip after the jump.

Comments

  1. bencoder says:

    I really hate this 6/9/12 axis nonsense that we get nowadays.

    For those that don’t understand, when you see a “9-axis” sensor, it is referring to 9 different measurements. Typically this is accelerometer/magnetometer/gyroscope. (3 axis on each, 3*3=9). But 9-axis means nothing, it’s just a meaningless number.

    Unfortunately because all the manufacturers are doing this nonsense they have to copy each other. This is the first i’ve heard of a 12-axis. The number keeps going up.

  2. jsngrimm says:

    I might look into doing this. I am typing from and older Fujitsu LifeBook tablet right now, screen orientation can only be changed by panel buttons which only work under windows.

  3. He didn’t hack the BIOS, he INSTALLED a hacked BIOS

  4. anybodysguess says:

    did anybody else notice the windows 7 sticker? This isn’t really a very old computer, actually it is quite new. the reason it did not have 1 is most people do not need an orientation sensor in a laptop that can turn into a tablet.

    • andar_b says:

      Need, no. Would probably find useful, yes. The only reason not to include one is to reduce costs. Not like it needs a full featured accelerometer to tell whether it’s in portrait or landscape mode though.

    • Will Richey says:

      My Toshiba M400 has a “designed for Windows XP” sticker on it and it came with an accelerometer to change screen orientation. Seems like they were trying to cut costs on this tablet.

    • Mal'oo says:

      To reply to all of the above, yes. The design is about 2 1/2 years old. This tablet pc was one of the best deals I had seen in terms of raw specs at the time. Business models tend to be twice as expensive, and lack any sort of graphics upgrade.

      It only makes sense that an accelerometer was deemed as something that wasn’t required. Even then it was a 1K+ investment, and my frustrations with it have been very few. HP tried the consumer grade tablet pc thing several times before, and with the TM2, their experience is obvious.

      So I just decided that adding a bit of extra hardware, using unused space and connections, would be a relatively easy way to make this thing better and more fun to use, and in that regard, I’m happy with it.

  5. Mike says:

    Honestly he shouldn’t have disabled the light sensor, when he could have just moved it to a location that would allow it to function perfectly. But definitely an awesome-sauce idea.

    Now my question is, would this work in a multiple monitor setup?

  6. jwk says:

    HP is pretty bad about restricting the mPCIe slot in the BIOS, but Toshiba and several other manufacturers do as well. It’s related to FCC compliance: many of these laptops come with an integral 3G/4G radio option. The laptop is certified by the government with that particular card in the slot, and in order to prevent running in an unapproved configuration (i.e. pulling the air card it came with and adding a different one) the BIOS must restrict which cards can be present in that slot. Laptops which happen to have an expansion slot internally, but which did not ever have an integral aircard option from the factory, tend not to have slot restrictions.

    • Funny thing is that sometimes that restriction only applies to slots marked WWAN, so some machines with multiple MiniPCIe slots, for example one for mSATA card and one for WWAN, or one for mSATA and one for Wi-Fi, or any combination of those, will just work by swapping their roles(SSD in “WWAN” or “Wi-Fi” slot and WWAN card in “SSD” slot). It’s a no-go if you know the signal lines you need, like SIM card pins or PCIe signals isn’t coming to that slot, but I think it’s worth trying.

  7. Nonya-Biz says:

    buy a buisness class even the old tc4200 had an orientation sensor, and a rotate button.

    • private boolean says:

      The tc4200 did not have an orientation sensor as far as I know… All it does is detect when you fold the lid back onto the keyboard and rotate the screen 90 degrees. It does have a PC card slot though :)

      • Mal'oo says:

        Which are both things that this laptop has, but HP’s software is broken on Windows 8, and I don’t have the experience to reverse engineer it, or dig to find how to find the state of the rotation button or lid close sensor when it’s in the reverse position (screen facing up.)

        Might be another project. Only one way to get experience, after all.

  8. Tony says:

    What’s wrong with using a few tilt switches? Cheap, simple, low power (monitoring uC sleeps until interrupted by the switches).

    (Then you could an Arduino to monitor them.)

    • Mal'oo says:

      (This is my project)

      Well, as simple as a setup that would be, I wasn’t looking for just automatic screen rotation. This also acts as a nice set of sensors that work for various tablet-style apps and games, that rely on accurate detection of angle and position.

      …I wonder if anyone’s gotten that Wii emulator to work with the windows sensor API. Might be a way to finally play skyward sword without a wiimote.

  9. lwatcdr says:

    Did anyone else read the specs on that sensor board? http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/prod_summary.jsp?code=RDWIN8SNSPLTM
    It has a freaking coldfire mcu on it. It is a tiny IMU with light, temp and airpressures sensors on it.

  10. ginge says:

    awesome hack. well done.

  11. M H says:

    Would have been a much less expensive to get a cheap android tablet,
    attach to the back of the tablet with duct tape, connect to tablet with bluetooth (or USB).

    Not only gives orientation sensor, but could act as secondary display.

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