I have been using a BNO055 sensor (9° dof IMU) for a project which will use angular velocity to move the mouse cursor on a PC screen.

So far, I have gotten quaternion output from the sensor and been able to convert it to angular velocity in a couple of ways. The first, multiplying 1 quaternion sample by its conjugate in the next sample, and then converting the quaternion Delta in Euler angles. The second, converting from quaternions to Euler angles and then finding the change in those between samples.

Both methods result in angular velocity measurement, but each with their advantages and disadvantages. E.g. Quaternion Delta between samples does not suffer from gimbal lock, but it's difficult to isolate pitch from roll.

I know that you can ask the sensor for angular velocity data directly, but apparently that's less precise due to the Gyro drift and it's relative orientation only, which is why I opted to work with quaternions.

Is there a better way to go about this?

My code included below for reference with the 2 approaches in case it's helpful/interesting. It uses the Adafruit repository for BNO sensor.

void quaternion_Delta () {
  // Quaternion data 1
  imu::Quaternion quat = bno.getQuat();
  // Euler 1
  imu::Vector<3> euler_one = quat.toEuler();
  //delay between samples
  // Quaternion data 2
  imu::Quaternion quat_two = bno.getQuat();
  // Euler 2
  imu::Vector<3> euler_two = quat_two.toEuler();
  // quaternion comparison
  imu::Quaternion quatDelta = quat_two * quat.conjugate ();
  imu::Vector<3> euler = quatDelta.toEuler();
  Serial.print(" X: ");
  Serial.print(euler.x()*radius_to_degrees, 2);
  Serial.print(" Y: ");
  Serial.print(euler.y()*radius_to_degrees, 2);
  Serial.print(" Z: ");
  Serial.print(euler.z()*radius_to_degrees, 2);
  // Euler comparison
  imu::Vector<3> euler_comparison = euler_two - euler_one;
  Serial.print(" x: ");
  Serial.print(euler_comparison.x()*radius_to_degrees, 2);
  Serial.print(" y: ");
  Serial.print(euler_comparison.y()*radius_to_degrees, 2);
  Serial.print(" z: ");
  Serial.print(euler_comparison.z()*radius_to_degrees, 2);

Edit: demonstration for quaternion Delta.

When quaternion current * quaternion home and transforming to Euler angles, we get the angular velocity between the 2 quaternions. Please imagine the sheet of paper to be the earth reference frame and to the watch the sensor's reference frame. With no yaw rotation, if with tilt the sensor up that causes a positive change in the y (pitch) axis. With 90° rotation of the sensor in the X (yaw) axis, however, a tilt of the sensor results in a change in the z (roll) axis instead.

My understanding is that this happens because quaternions are a representation of absolute orientation. So with any angle of rotation in the yaw axis we get a mixture of change in the pitch and roll axis whenever we tilt the sensor up or down.

This is what I mean that a change in sensor tilt (moving it up or down) results in a change in either/both the Y and Z axis.

enter image description here enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you trying to do the reverse of this operation ? The link shows the formula connecting quat_two, quat and angular velocity. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJN
    Apr 22, 2021 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ From what I can understand, which is not everything, I believe it slightly different from that post. Thank you for taking the time to respond. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2021 at 16:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you show an example where it is difficult to isolate pitch from roll ? I would also like to know why drift is an issue when using the rates directly from the IMU. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJN
    Apr 23, 2021 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will edit my post with some pictures and explanation. With regards to the gyroscope drift, I'm not exactly sure if that happens or not. I just read that it is an issue if using only the gyroscope to detect angular velocity and that is why you would prefer to have sensor fusion. Maybe that is not the case and I misunderstood something? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2021 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


... which will use angular velocity to move the mouse cursor on a PC screen.

It is not clear if the angular velocity will control the cursor velocity or the cursor position. If the angular velocity is controlling the cursor velocity, then the cursor position will be affected by drift (due to the integration operation performed). However, this can be solved in software by passing the sensed angular velocity through a threshold operation (dead zone). The threshold is chosen to be more than the expected drift.

The first, multiplying 1 quaternion sample by its conjugate in the next sample

quaternion current * quaternion home and ...

The first statement gives the impression that the IMU output is sampled with small time intervals and you are using the adjacent samples of quaternion. If this is the case, the angle between the two quaternion will be a small angle and the pitch/roll mixing problem doesn't arise (for sufficiently small sampling interval).

The second statement gives the impression that the current quaternion is multiplied with the very first sampled quaternion or a fixed home quaternion and not the immediately preceding sample. The angles between the quaternion can be large and pitch/roll mixing will occur.

... quaternion current * quaternion home and transforming to Euler angles, we get the angular velocity between the 2 quaternion.

No. we get the angle (or rotation) between the two quaternion. If we took the difference between two displacements, the result is also a displacement and not a linear velocity. If the two displacements were measured a very very small time apart and if you divided the difference by the time, then, that quantity is a (instantaneous) linear velocity. If the time gap was large, the quantity is average velocity.

For rotations, when the angle difference is large, we can still compute the average angular velocity by imagining the shortest rotation which will take one quaternion to the other. However, due to the inherent properties of rotation, you cannot avoid mixing between the channels.

Reconstructing the angular velocity from quaternion

Using the quaternion to reconstruct the angular velocity may still be a good idea since the IMU software might have used the accelerometers or magnetometers to cancel the drift in the angular velocity measurement.

From the linked answer, we have, by rearranging,

$$ \left[\begin{matrix} -q_x(t) & -q_y(t) & -q_z(t) \\ q_w(t) & q_z(t) & -q_y(t) \\ -q_z(t) & q_w(t) & q_x(t) \\ q_y(t) & -q_x(t) & q_w(t) \end{matrix} \right]^{-1} \frac{2}{\delta t} \left( \left(\begin{matrix}q_w(t+\delta t) \\ q_x(t+\delta t) \\ q_y(t+\delta t) \\ q_z(t+\delta t) \end{matrix}\right) - \left(\begin{matrix}q_w(t) \\ q_x(t) \\ q_y(t) \\ q_z(t) \end{matrix}\right) \right) = \left(\begin{matrix} \omega_x(t) \\ \omega_y(t) \\ \omega_z(t) \end{matrix} \right). $$

If I am not mistaken (be careful about the quaternion convention. Some use frame representation, some use rotation operator representation), the result will be in the frame of the IMU platform. You can convert this vector to the home axis frame by using the vector rotation formula.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the detailed answer. I'll have a look through it and try to implement. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2021 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've been working on this project for the last couple of months. Just went over this answer again and realized how much of it went over my head. Thank you for taking the time. I'm still having trouble reconstructing the angular velocity from quaternions, or finding a way to work around pitch/roll mixing. Not sure if appropriate, but would you be willing/available for a paid consultation? \$\endgroup\$ May 18, 2021 at 8:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for responding. I will post a new question, and see how it goes. \$\endgroup\$ May 18, 2021 at 13:03

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