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Menlo Device By Microsoft Tracks You Precisely

Menlo is a pocket-sized research device created by Microsoft that uses a variety of sensors to create a kind of digital bread crumb-trail that shows exactly where you've been, even indoors.


(Menlo [left] and Greenfield app collector)

The device would collect the trail data while the user walked indoors, underground, or in other spaces where GPS signals are unavailable or weak--such as multilevel parking garages that can baffle people who forget where they parked.

The resulting Microsoft Research device, a prototype phone called Menlo, packs a suite of sensors: an accelerometer to detect movement, a side-mounted compass to determine direction, and a barometric pressure sensor to track changes in altitude.

While existing phones contain some of these sensors, what's new about Menlo is an app called Greenfield, which aims to solve the Hansel and Gretel problem by harnessing the data from the sensors. The goal is to count a user's sequence of steps, gauge direction changes, and even calculate how many floors the user has traversed by stairs or an elevator. The app stores the trail data so that a user can later retrace his path precisely.

Fans of Jack Williamson's amazing 1936 novel The Cometeers may recall the cartograph:

He reached to unsnap the cartograph from his belt. He had brought that tiny instrument to map their movements. He opened the cover and peered at the strip.

"We're nearly seven miles from where the prison used to be," he said thoughtfully.

Via Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/27/2011)

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