Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Motion-Activated Screwdrivers Work

The GYRO, from Black & Decker, is the world’s first (and only, as of early 2013) motion-activated power tool. Want to learn more? Check out these must-have power tools.
Courtesy Black & Decker

Power tools are a heartless bunch. Sure, they're shiny and make splendiferous roaring sounds, but do they really understand you? It's about time that someone manufactured a power tool that really gets you, where you're coming from and where you want to go. Enter the Black & Decker GYRO, a new twist on screw driving technology.

The GYRO can't quite play psychic, but it can read your body language. Twist this powered screwdriver just a fraction of an inch in one direction and the motor instantly engages and begins driving the screw. Turn the handle the other way and GYRO immediately reverses course.

It's not that Black & Decker has discovered the secret to making mind readers out of power tools. The magic lies in the GYRO's gyroscope. A gyroscope is a device that helps maintain orientation.

You've probably used multiple products with integrated gyroscopes. When you rotate your smartphone's screen, it's a gyroscope that keeps the display rotated right-side up for easy reading. Many video game controllers (such as the remotes used for the Nintendo Wii) incorporate gyroscopes, too, so that the system can detect how hard you're swinging your virtual sword or tennis racket.

The GYRO works much the same. Twist it about a quarter of a turn and the motor kicks in. The farther you turn, the faster the variable speed motor spins the driver's head, up to 180 revolutions per minute and with a maximum torque of 42 inch pounds (48.4 kilograms force centimeter), which is enough muscle for smaller tasks.

Of course, it's not the power that's revolutionary. It's the sensing technology. All powered screwdrivers and drills will drive both forwards and backwards, but all of the others require you toggle a switch to do so. Depending on the required toggling action and the circumstances, that supposedly simple switch can be downright exasperating. With the GYRO, though, there's no switch at all. Just twist and go and the job is done.

The variable speed motor is another first. Other electric screwdrivers work primarily at one speed, which is a problem when you're working with a delicate or awkward item. With GYRO's multiple speed levels, your screwdriving chores may be much easier.

While others will surely follow suit, Black & Decker is the first company to integrate gyroscopes into power tools. Keep reading to see how engineers turned one of your toolbox's most basic implements into a new-age, gyroscopic gadget.