ECERTech’s TiltControl

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WHAT’S HOT

    The ECERTech TiltCONTROL is both small and
relatively inexpensive.  It’s cost is only $49.  To give you
a notion of its size, here are some pictures of it:


The TiltCONTROL hardware


…and installed on a Pocket PC

It may be small, but it
really still works well.  Here’s some shots of it dynamically rotating
my screen while I physically rotate my PPC:


Here’s the Pocket PC in the normal position


Rotate it to the right and the screen
follows suit


Continue to rotate the Pocket PC and the
screen keeps up, even upside down


…and finally to the left, with the screen
properly rotated again.

SETUP

    The driver all other TiltCONTROL software
installs using the standard ActiveSync Add/Remove programs functionality. 
The driver and settings software com on a CD-ROM included with the TiltCONTROL
hardware.  You can also download the most current version of those
programs from
the ECERTech web site
.  Any of the optional programs for the
TiltCONTROL also come with the driver and settings program.  You
need to keep this in mind if you install any of the additional programs.  Each of them will attempt to reinstall the driver and settings program,
you can safely skip that after the first one.
    When you install any of the TiltCONTROL programs,
it creates a TiltCONTROL folder in the Programs folder of your start
menu.  All TiltCONTROL program shortcuts, and shortcuts to the
readme and help files go into that folder.  That makes it easy
to find all of the TiltCONTROL programs and documentation.

PRODUCT FEATURES

    Currently, the TiltCONTROL hardware comes
with a copy of CONTROL-EMUL8R software at no extra charge.  Because
of this, we’ll cover the driver and settings program and CONTROL-EMUL8R
in this review.

TiltCONTROL settings

Tapping on the TiltCONTROL
Settings icon in the TiltCONTROL folder brings up the driver settings
dialog:

    The driver settings
dialog shows the current readings from the TiltCONTROL hardware (if
connected) and its status (connected or disconnected).  The is
a check box that allows you to disable the driver (in case it interferes
with another serial-connected device like a keyboard).  You can
also choose your performance level.  The "High" setting
is very responsive but may slow down other programs as it gives priority
to TiltCONTROL messages.
    Tapping on the [Calibration Wizard] button walks
you through the process of calibrating the software to your TiltCONTROL
hardware.  It begins by asking you to make sure your TiltCONTROL
hardware is connected, then displays the Zero G Calibrate screen:

    The Zero G Calibrate
screen takes the readings for your device while it’s sitting on a flat
surface.  The [Zero G calibrate] button stores those readings. 
The [Back] button goes back to the hardware connection warning. 
The [Cancel] button stops the calibration process with only those reading
that you’ve already taken being stored.  The [Next] button proceeds
to the next phase of calibration.  At each stage, you’ll be asked
to tilt your Pocket PC for minimum and maximum vertical and horizontal
positions.

Once the calibration is
completed, a test screen is displayed with a cursor that shows the tilt
position.  Tilting the Pocket PC will dynamically move the cursor.

Pressing the Action button
on your Pocket PC will exit the test screen.

The [Manual Calibration]
button on the main screen calls up a single screen that allows you to
manually adjust the calibration by adjusting the sensitivity and offsets:

    You can also use the
Manual Calibration to reverse horizontal or vertical action or to swap
horizontal and vertical axes.  These options may be useful if you
have a WM2003SE machine and more often use it in upside-down portrait
or landscape orientations.
    The icons at the bottom of the screen show the four
maximum/minimum positions with the [Zero G Calibrate] button at the
top.  To calibrate to those positions, you simple place the Pocket
PC in the position that matches the icon and press the matching icon
(or place the PPC in the zero position and press the [Zero G Calibrate]
button).  You can also enter the sensitivity and offset numbers
manually.

CONTROL-EMUL8R

    Before you use CONTROL-EMUL8R,
you need plug-ins for the programs you wish to use with the TiltCONTROL.  You can download a set of plugins from the
ECERTech web site
or you can create your own.  To do the later
you use the provided Plugin Creator program:

    The main screen of
the Plugin Creator allows you to create, delete (remove), edit, and
test plugins.  Creating and Editing follow the same series of dialogs. 
We’ll look at them first.  When you create a new plugin, you’ll
be asked for a name and description or comments:

Conversely, if you Edit
an existing plugin, you’ll be asked to select it from a list of currently
available plugins:

    After you’ve selected
the plugin you want, you can immediately edit the Description/Comments.  Tapping [OK] from either of the screens above takes you to the screen
that allows you to select either the Advanced or the Wizard editing
mode:

    We’ll take the wizard
mode first.  As with the driver settings program, it first warns
you to make sure your TiltCONTOL device is connected, then it allows
you the chance to Calibrate to your TiltCONTROL hardware (if you haven’t
done so already.)  The next screen allows you to select from two
"control types:"

    (The "None"
types are not implemented at this time and represent future options.) 
The Stylus type emulates pressing the stylus on the touch screen and
moving it.  The next screen sets up the method of emulation:

    You can choose either
"discrete" (emulating tapping and releasing while moving)
or "continuous" (tapping and holding while moving). 
The Stylus Hold Time is the total time that the emulated stylus is held
down before releasing.  The Stylus tap frequency is the number
of times the emulated stylus will tap the screen per second.
    Once you’ve chosen the method, you’ll need to define
the area of the screen that the emulated stylus moves in.  You’ll
select that area by tapping in one corner of the area and dragging to
the diagonal opposite corner.  The selected area is shown by a
yellow rectangle on the screen.  When you complete that, the plugin
creator asks you to set the TiltCONTROL thresholds.  Since that
works the same for both Stylus and Arrow Key types, we’ll visit the
arrow key screens and return to the threshold settings at the end.

The Arrow key emulation
type has three different methods.

    Pulse Width Modulation
(PWM) increases the time that an arrow key is held down as the device
tilt increases.  Frequency increases the number of times an arrow
key is pressed as the device tilt increases.  On/Off presses the
arrow key when the tilt passes a particular threshold.

After you’ve entered the
emulation method, you’ll select the "Zero Control Position" for this plugin:

    As you can see from
the above, the ZCP doesn’t have to be while the handheld is laid flat. 
In fact, I got the vertical tilt shown above by holding the handheld
naturally in my hand.  That way, when it’s in neutral position
in my hand, it’s in neutral on the control.
    After the ZCP, you’ll set the Horizontal and Vertical
Sensitivity:

    The sensitivity is
the angle that represents the control at full on (100%).  In my
case, I found a sensitivity setting of 30-45 degrees works well.  You can set the control manually, by entering a number or dynamically,
by tilting the PPC and tapping the [Set…] button when you’re at the
point you want.
    Next you’ll be asked for the horizontal and vertical
minimum and maximum thresholds:

    The thresholds are
measure in % of the Sensitivity numbers and indicate the point where
the control emulation starts occurring.  After you’ve entered the
four thresholds, you’ll be asked for a "Digital Filter Length:"

    The filter length
is length of an internal digital filter that is used to "de-bounce"
the controls.  A larger filter length will eliminate response to
quick (and possibly accidental) movements.
    Following the filter settings, you’ll get a screen
that will allow you to reverse and disable the horizontal and/or vertical
controls:

    The "reverse"
options are for those programs in which it might make sense to tap the
"down" key when you tilt the PPC up or the like.  The
"disable" options are for programs where you only want to
control either horizontal or vertical action with the TiltCONTROL, but
not both.
    The next screen in the Plugin Creator allows you
to "capture" the Window and Class name (used by Windows CE
to identify a program).

    You do this by removing
the TiltCONTROL hardware, starting the "monitor," launching
the application, and then attaching the TiltCONTROL hardware again. 
Plugin Creator then reads the current Window name and Class name and
enters it into the boxes at the bottom of the screen.  With this
information, EMUL8R can know which of the plugins when the matching
program is on-screen.  It’s a nice touch that eliminates the need
to manually select the plug in.  Unfortunately, it can run aground
on programs that alter their window name with each file you load. 
(eReader is an example.  It changes the window name to the currently
loaded eBook title.)
    The next screen allows you to test the plugin to
see if the action is as you expected.  The final screen allows
you to save your new or edited plugin.

    The [Advanced] button
allows you to edit the same information as the Wizard, but does it in
a tabbed interface.  As the name implies, this mode gives you a
bit more control, but requires some experience before using it.

    An added feature of
the Advanced mode are some Graphical settings screens.  The one
shown below is for adjusting the Horizontal and Vertical Sensitivities:

The sliders allow you
to adjust the sensitivity while the + cursor shows you the affect on
the control as you tip your Pocket PC.

Once you’ve created the
plug-ins, you can control their actions using the EMUL8R Settings program:

    The main screen of
EMUL8R Settings has a check box to disable CONTROL-EMUL8R entirely,
a button to change the TiltCONTROL driver settings (including calibration),
and a button to Manage Plugins.  Tapping the last button brings
up a the following screen:

    The first pane on
the screen lists "installed" plugins.  Selecting a plugin
will allow you to see and edit it’s Description/Comments.  Once
it’s selected you can tap the [Uninstall] button to remove/delete it
completely or the [Disable] button to keep it from controlling the associated
program.

TiltCONTROL in Action

    With a device like
TiltCONTROL, it really helps to actually see it in action.  Fortunately,
the folks at ECERTech agree and have created a number of Windows Media
Player format videos that show the TiltCONTROL in action:

HELP SUPPORT

    The CONTROL-EMUL8R, TiltDISPLAY, TiltMOUSE,  and Plugin Creator all have built-in help. 
These help files are displayed using Pocket Internet Explorer rather
than the standard Help application.  There is also HTML-formatted
Quick Start Guide and a TiltCONTROL Help file available through Start
| Programs | TiltControl as well as a Readme text file.  All of
these are installed on your Pocket PC along with the programs.
    In addition to the built-in help, there are on-line
resources: 
The Tech Support page
contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),
as well as the e-mail address to contact technical support with issues
or feature requests. 
The CONTROL-EMUL8R Plugin Library page
has a selection of downloadable
plugins for various programs.  These not only provide working plugins
for some programs but may also help to show users what’s possible using
the provided Plugin Creator program.  There is also
a Developer’s page
which includes download links for the TiltControl
Software Development Kit.  The SDK allows programmers to implement
TiltControl support in their own programs.  Finally, there’s a
download page
, where users can download the latest versions of software.

OPTIONS
    There are a number of
additional programs that work with the TiltCONTROL hardware
:

  • TiltDISPLAY dynamically rotates
    the screen to match the orientation you’re holding your Pocket PC
    in.  This is the application you saw at work in the What’s Hot
    section.  (For WM2003SE models only.)
  • TiltMOUSE allows you to control
    the cursor position on your desktop by tilting and tapping your Pocket
    PC.
  • TiltCONTROL SDK allows you
    to create your own programs which use the TiltCONTROL hardware for
    input.
  • TiltLEVEL graphically displays
    the current angle at which the Pocket PC is held.
  • Pocket Pedometer uses the TiltCONTROL
    and Pocket PC to calculate the number of steps the user has taken
    and covert to distance traveled and calories burned.
  • V-Tech Performance Calculator uses
    the TiltCONTROL to measure acceleration.  By entering a few specifications
    about your vehicle you can calculate 1/4 mile performance,
    0-60ft time, 0-100ft time,
    0-60mph, 0-100mph, 60-0mph, Rear
    Wheel Horse Power, Real Wheel Torque and
    more.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    TiltControl and the associated software will work with all Pocket PC
operating systems.  (TiltDISPLAY is for WM2003SE only.)  The
connector, however, is specific to the manufacturer’s make (and often
model as well).  Check
the ECERTech web site
for compatibility.

BUGS AND WISHES

  
 The TiltControl hardware and software worked flawlessly for my
tests.  The only problem I ran into was CONTROL EMUL8R’s difficulty
in dealing with programs that change their window names.  I’d like
to see a workaround for that problem.  As it is now, I have to
modify my plug-in when I change the eBook I’m reading.

   
The TiltControl hardware is already very small and easily carried, but
I did think about one wish for the form-factor:  It does stick
out from the bottom of the Pocket PC.  As such, it won’t fit into
any case designed for the handheld.  If you use it a lot, you’ll
find yourself constantly taking it off to put the handheld in the case
and putting it back on to use it.  If the hardware curled around
the base of the handheld, it might fit in many cases and need only to
be removed for synchronizing.  A second thought would be to make
it in a Compact Flash or SDIO card.  That would take up a slot,
but it would fit completely within the machine.
    Another wish would be for some OEMs to implement
the ECERTech components within their hardware.  This would allow
the functionality without tying up the serial port at the bottom of
the unit.
    The final wish would be for an addition to the CONTROL-EMUL8R
software.  I’d like to see an additional angle-sensitive modifier. 
This would allow you to walk by tilting slightly and run by tilting
at a greater angle.  (This is done by emulating holding down the
shift key in a number of first-person games.)

PURCHASING

    The TiltControl hardware (with drivers included) can be purchased
from the ECERTech web site
for $49.  The same link will also
allow you to purchase the TiltDISPLAY ($12.95), TiltMOUSE ($19), CONTROL-EMUL8R
(currently free with TiltControl hardware), and the other software I
mentioned in the Options section.

PROS

  • Control-EMUL8R adds rotational
    control to any application
  • Hardware and software is compatible
    with PPC2000, PPC2002, WM2003, and WM2003SE
  • Hardware and software are
    reasonably priced

CONS

  • Hardware occupies bottom connector
  • Finding optimum settings can
    be a bit time-consuming

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The TiltCONTROL is one of those devices
that immediately appealed to the gadget-freak side of me.  The
practical side needed a bit of convincing.  After using the device
for a while, I found it was just the thing for many of my favorite games. 
CONTROL-EMUL8R is a bit tricky to configure, but after I got the configurations
tweaked, it made playing those games much better.   I also
found it useful for e-book reading.  Just tilting the screen will
turn the page for me.  Considering what it does, the hardware pricing
is quite reasonable.  The software pricing is even better.
    If it were built into the hardware, I’d definitely
use the TiltCONTROL to rotate my screen.  As it is, it takes me
longer to pull it out and plug it in than it does to push the button
that rotates the screen manually.  If you’re switching orientations
quite frequently, it would be quite useful but I still wouldn’t buy
it just for this feature.  Consider it an added bonus if you want
the other functionalities.
    TiltCONTROL is alone in its field.  If you need
or want rotational control for your Pocket PC, by all means buy the
TiltCONTROL.  Nothing else does what it does.

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About The Author
Russ Smith