A Simple Innovation – Huge Impact

One of the hottest games is Wii. It is hot because it is different and it encourages you to exercise and have fun. Besides the wireless sensors, the thing that really makes Wii tick is a button sized MEM – micro electro mechanical system.

One of the first applications of the 3-D sensor was in laptops, where sensors guard against damage from a fall. In the split second of free fall that comes before the collision with the floor, the sensor tells a controller to park the read/write head safely away from the hard drive.

Another application came in 2003, in a Maytag washing machine that uses a somewhat smaller sensor—14 millimeters by 7 mm by 4 mm—to detect vibrations due to an unbalanced load and to adjust the washer’s speed to dampen them.

Another ST product enables the user of a cellphone or a PDA to adjust the display of images or retrieve data from memory by just tilting the device. It sure beats trying to use grown-up fingers to punch commands on baby-size buttons.

But that is not all. Here are some possible future applications, according to this article in IEEE Spectrum (via Slashdot)

First he wants to make the sensor even smaller, even cheaper, even tougher. “I want it to fit in all kinds of places—shoes and textiles, for instance, where it might be useful for medical monitoring,” he says.

“Then I want to make a three-dimensional gyroscope, to measure rotation around three different axes. Today, such products are quite big, a cube 10 centimeters on a side. We want to do this in less than a 30-millimeter cube, to serve as an image stabilizer in cameras and to track a person’s position in the intervals when he can’t get a GPS signal.”

Better still, he adds, would be to throw in a magnetic detector, freeing the navigator from GPS altogether. It would be yet another marvel from Lilliput—the smallest compass ever sold.

So what can you do with a few micro motion sensors and wireless? There are some interesting possibilities in both sports and medicine not to mention tiny robots and other devices.