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Nov 29th, 2013
 
New twists on autofocus, multitouch, and energy harvesting
 
The annual MEMS Executive Congress, held earlier this month in Napa, Calif., is more about contemplating trends than specific product innovations. But attendees did get a few glimpses of technologies soon to come out of startup companies. Three of those startup efforts stood out.
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The Memscam from Digitaloptics Corp. Ten years, US $100 million, and 1000 patents—that’s what Eric Sigler, vice president of product marketing for Digitaloptics Corp., says it took Digitaloptics to create a camera module that autofocuses by moving tiny lens elements electrostatically. Sigler says that the tiny camera, intended for use in smart phones, uses two orders of magnitude less power than autofocusing cameras typically used in cell phones, which use voice-coil motor technology to operate. He also promised that the Memscam focuses 10 times as fast as existing cell phone cameras. Sigler expect the first phones to use the camera will come out in China, from manufacturer Oppo.

Energy harvesters from Microgen Systems.  Powering the Internet of Things—the connected world of the future that anticipates sensors all over the place, constantly communicating with each other—is going to require power that doesn’t come through wires. Companies have looked at using thermoelectric effects and harvesting radio waves as possible solutions. Robert Andosca, president and CEO of Microgen Systems, says he has a better way—converting vibrations into electricity using a MEMS device. It  incorporates a multilayered cantilever, with at least one piezoelectric layer that converts the movement of the lever into electrical energy. The company calls this device the Bolt Micro Power Generator. He demonstrated the energy harvester by placing it on a standard Parrot AR Drone.

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