When Apple released the first iPad model last year, it came with a number of impressive technical features, including a built-in accelerometer that read users' movements with the device (mainly within racing and skill-oriented games, such as "Real Racing HD" and "Labyrinth 2 HD"). With the iPad 2, it’s made some improvements with this technology, adding a gyroscope – a device that measures direction and orientation – into the mix.
But what exactly does the gyroscope do for the iPad 2? In a nutshell, by combining it with the built-in accelerometer, it increases the motions being read with the device, allowing developers of applications into its products more effectively.
Normally, a gyroscope is considered too big to be included in small technical devices, such as the iPad 2 or the iPhone 4 before it. However, these use a microscopic version called MEMS, which stands for Micro Electro Mechanical Systems. It basically combines the measurement of three separate axes — X, Y and Z — together into a small vibrating structure formulated onto a chip. This is then implemented into the technical build of the device, enabling them to read specific motions. (Thus why the screen automatically rotates when you turn the iPad around, or how steering works so well in various racing games.)
This gyroscopic technology has been used before in various electronics. Nintendo has put it to good use with its WiiMotion Plus controller (for use with the Wii gaming console); camera image stabilization systems use them to avoid blurriness in pictures; and several cars use them for both navigational purposes and to detect when a vehicle is rolled over in an accident.
Thus far, not many developers have taken advantage of the new gyroscopic technology, but rest assured, several new apps are sure to do so as they’re released over the next few months. If you want to get an idea of what it’s about, we suggest checking out Firemint’s "Real Racing 2 HD," a game that takes advantage of the iPad 2’s features. Driving in a car feels quite natural on the iPad 2, especially when it comes to turning corners. (On a side note, the game works just fine on the original iPad as well — though steering isn’t as precise.)