Putting A New Spin On The Gyroscope

Gyroscopes have long been used in such navigational instruments as aircraft-and missile-guidance systems. But their cost, weight, and power consumption have limited their uses. Now, a Silicon Valley startup has developed what it says is the world's smallest and lightest gyroscope--about the size of a 35mm film cartridge and weighing only 2 ounces. Ordinary gyroscopes range in size from a soup can to a bread box and weigh from 1 to 35 pounds.

The first application of Gyration Inc.'s GyroEngine is in a computer mouse. Unlike other mice, which are rolled on a pad, this one can be operated in free space. That's useful for 3-D graphics applications, such as airplane design. But the company says it plans a host of other uses for its tiny gyroscopes: jiggle-free camcorders and "smart" tools, such as carpenters' levels. GyroEngine will cost about $500 when it becomes available early next year, the company says.

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