GAME STARTING

Is Nintendo’s Wii computer game system a breakthrough in home entertainment? How about health and fitness? A lot of publicity has gone over this dam (or under this bridge, depending on where you’re standing). Here’s our two cents worth:

First of all, Wii is pronounced “Whee,” like you’re having fun, which you probably will be. It’s made by Nintendo and is so hot right now that many retailers don’t have any to sell. The game unit itself has a list price of $250, but we couldn’t find it for less than $300, because of the high demand. The “Wii Fit” add-on device costs at least another $150, but it’s more fun than a puppy. Joy is totally addicted.

Here’s the setup: The Wii Fit unit is a balance board. It looks like an extra wide bathroom scale. The board has very sensitive inertial sensors which can detect your slightest movements. That’s the key, because when you place it in front of the Wii game machine and load the software, a fitness trainer appears and tells you what movements you should make.

The figure on the screen is your personal trainer. The balance board you stand on is so sensitive that the little robotic trainer can even tell if you’re lifting your arms high enough for the arm exercises. It also checks your balance – and tells you what to do to correct it. You start by logging in your age and height. It weighs you and gives you your “body mass index.” After you take two balance tests, the Wii Fit tells you your fitness age. If you work hard you can lower it.

The tiny trainer in the machine is like a robotic friend and nanny. It wishes you good morning in the morning and asks if you’ve had your breakfast yet. If you get on late at night, the little trainer says: “It’s getting late. Are you going to bed soon?” It was hot outside a couple days ago and the little trainer inside the machine said “Is it just me, or is it warmer today?” This is getting eerie.

If you want to take a break you can play a game or watch the news. The Wii machine connects to the Internet through just about any wireless network and a selection of late breaking news flashes by on the screen. If you want to see the full story, you point and click with your remote control, called a “Wii-mote” by the cognoscenti, instead of “re-mote.”

The more you use Wii Fit and the better you get, the more routines are unlocked to try your muscles and patience. There are dozens of exercises. Joy is approaching Olympic status now. Bob is trying to get computer approval for his posture. Beyond exercise, there are of course games, all requiring balance skills.

Beyond games there is ongoing research and a world of possibilities. A researcher in robotics at Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, has cleverly reversed the sensors and Wii-mote control device, producing a screen that looks three-dimensional. In fact, the objects are so separated by depth that you can move inside room he created, behind and around objects. This is worth viewing and you can see it at YouTube.com; search on “head tracking.” Right now, there are hundreds of other people developing new routines and hacks for the Wii.

2 Responses to “GAME STARTING”

  1. Great post, WII is underrated by playstation and xbox, I think that it is a good rival to both platforms.

  2. Nice post, this is good for all guys, I think this is good platform for children.