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Space, warships and iPhones: A history of the gyroscope

This tiny sensor is a lot more exciting than you might think.

Gyroscopes are everywhere. They're in your phone, your smartwatch and even in your car. But this often-overlooked sensor has a fascinating history that dates all the way back to ancient times. It's even partly responsible for the infamous Mile High Club.

A gyroscope measures angular movement, and along with the accelerometer, it helps your phone with everything from recording smooth videos to running interactive games to handling experiences designed for virtual and augmented reality.

In a new video feature, CNET follows the gyroscope's journey from the high seas to the space race, and we discover how it ended up in the iPhone 4.

The once-massive gyroscope that was used to help ships navigate and to help send astronauts into space is now small enough and cheap enough to fit inside the tech we use every day. That's thanks to MEMS, or micro-electro-mechanical systems, which measure anywhere from a few millimeters long all the way down to the width of a human hair. 

In the video above you can find out more about how the gyroscope has helped accelerate major tech breakthroughs, including autopilot, electronic stability controls, and gaming with the Nintendo Wii Mote.