From Byron's (Course 3, '98) alma mater comes an interesting visualization technology:
They appear to be using off-the-shelf (if high-speed) cameras and feeding data to an algorithm that manages to pick out sub-pixel-sized displacements, exaggerating them in video so that you can see what is going on. Abe Davis does an excellent job describing some of the underlying technical concepts in a TED talk from March. In that talk, he claims that they can actually take advantage of the "rolling shutter" problem in consumer-grade cameras to their advantage.
The civil engineering research team is touting the structural monitoring possibilities: it's non-contact, generates global (rather than local) data, and can be executed with cheap, pre-existing hardware.
I'm not sure that this technique (without specialized hardware) could easily be made sensitive enough to displace traditional accelerometers in the nanotech labs that we help design. (And how would we support our camera, anyway?)
But I'm intrigued by some of the visualization possibilities. Specifically, I'm sure you could use this to show how horizontal vibrations in buildings tend to be global, whereas vertical vibrations tend to be highly localized. Or, I'm guessing you could use this to see just what it looks like when people walk on a structural floor. Or, the difference between "soft" office-style floors vs. "stiff" waffle floors like you might see in a semiconductor fab.
Anyway, this is very cool stuff. I'm all for anything that helps train our physical intuitions.