MEMS devices are everywhere. They have permeated almost every aspect of our lives, forever altering our interaction with our digital environment. Unknowingly, we take them for granted. But what would happen if this tiny, robust, quiet, virtually invisible workhorse suddenly disappeared? Would we notice?
I wake up to the cacophonous sound of my children mutinying. The MEMS gyros in their video game controllers are defunct, so they can’t play Wii Dance Party or Super Mario Brothers. Normally, my BodyMedia LINK Armband registers my sleep—and can monitor my heart rate to show if it is soaring due to stress, or something good for me, like running, but my armband is dead in the water so I am forced to gauge my sleep deprivation and heart rate without any electronic support. I have a feeling that this going to be a really long day.
I check my smartphone for the weather report so I know what to expect for the day, but without the MEMS accelerometer for orientation, my screen constantly shifts between landscape and portrait, leaving me even more irritated. I’m late for an important meeting, so I jump into my car and program the GPS, which, without its MEMS-based inertial navigation system, makes location awareness totally unreliable. Looks like I am going to have to get out the map, if I even still have one in the glove compartment.
Did I mention that I’m late for my friend’s surprise 40th birthday party and I’m in charge of taking the photographs? But without those amazing accelerometers giving me image stabilization on my digital camera, my images will surely be blurry. MEMS, where are you?
I have a “Eureka” moment. I could try to upload the photos to my MacBook and fix them there, but when I dropped my MacBook this morning, without the MEMS accelerometer to detect the drop and then freeze my hard drive, I'd lost the ability turn on my constant companion. Foiled again.
My nose twitches, and soon I am convulsed by violent sneezing. I think I forgot to take my allergy medication this morning…whoops. My Proteus Digital Health feedback system—which uses a MEMS sensor the size of a grain of sand to detect my medication and record when it was taken—is clearly not working either!