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At the Heart of the Wii, Micron-Size Machines

EVEN before its release last month, Nintendo's latest video game console, the Wii, was getting a lot of attention for its wireless motion-sensitive controllers.

The controller's most-talked-about feature is the capacity to track its own relative motion. This enables players to do things like steer a car by twisting the remote in the air or moving a game character by tilting the remote down or up.

"This represents a fabulous example of the consumerization of MEMS," the tiny devices known as micro-electro-mechanical systems, said Benedetto Vigna, general manager of the MEMS unit at STMicroelectronics, a leading maker of the accelerometers embedded in the controllers. (Nintendo itself declined to talk about the controllers' inner workings.)

He said the motion sensors, using the technology that activates vehicle air bags, can accurately sense three axes of acceleration: up and down, left to right, and forward and backward...

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