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MEMS Everywhere

With all the sensors showing up in our phones (at the very least), MEMS is seeing their own hockey-stick in play. At the MEMS Executive Congress, a panel of MEMS users hosted by Movea gave a taste of where these things will be going – and we’re talking much more than cell phones. These are products that are basically available now – although the word “affluent” came up more than once, suggesting that there may be some trickling down required before we all see them.

This all fell under the general concept of “sensor fusion,” where the outputs of multiple sensors are combined and munged together to provide a unified metric of some sort.

Sunrex showed a mini remote/keyboard with an air-pointing cursor that works with an accelerator and gyroscope. Looking at applications in PC-connected TVs, Pay TV set-top boxes, connected digital TV, presentations and education, and gaming.

Proteus Biomedical showed a little green pill with a sensor in it. The idea is that the sensor can be used to identify what’s been taken to a personal monitor that’s applied more or less like a bandaid. The pill confirms that the correct medicine has been taken and lets the monitor know; the monitor communicates this through the cell phone. This means less need for someone to watch over the person taking the medicine to confirm that it’s been taken. The sensor is made out of bio-friendly materials; the monitor is disposable and waterproof, intended for seven-day use.

Recon Instruments showed ski goggles with sensors and a heads-up display (the latter being their primary technology). The goggles work with the Cloud for social networking (“Dudes, I’m totally shredding!”) as well as a set of contextual analytics that take the sensor outputs and turn them into relevant metrics about speed, location, etc.

Intel talked about their Red Ridge tablet reference design, using x86 and Android (Honeycomb). This has the typical MEMS IMU units and such. One of the benefits touted is that, for positioning, you don’t need to be draining your battery to work with external location systems like GPS; you can check in with them less frequently and let the on-board sensors do the dead reckoning in between.

Syride showed a gnarly sensor pack that goes on your surfboard; in many ways it resembled the goggles in terms of what it does; obviously it’s presented differently. You can measure your speed, peak speed, wave height, distance covered, paddling time, etc. It can also detect drift, alerting you if you’re in a rip current.

R0R3 Devices makes a number of “quasi-medical” fitness devices. Heart-rate monitoring is just the start, replacing the uncomfortable chest straps that are the status quo today. The armband that you use instead transmits to your cell phone, and, well you know the rest (the cell phone is obviously a frequent conduit for information and connectivity in these systems).

Finally, MicroVision showed their pico-projector – a small projector that can hook to anything with an HDMI output. They’ve got a micro-mirror system inside that can project on surfaces (although the amount of light available is much less than would be available from a full-up projector).

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