Tag Archives | Vitality Sensor

Nintendo’s Wii Vitality Sensor: Vaporware?

260px-64DD_with_Nintendo64Okay, so it’s becoming clear that Nintendo doesn’t know exactly what to do with the Wii Vitality Sensor. The gadget, which supposedly measures pulse and other vitals from a player’s finger, was briefly introduced at E3 to a curious, if not bewildered press. Two months later, Nintendo brainchild Shigeru Miyamoto still won’t say how, exactly, the peripheral will be used.

“Ideally we would have been able to talk about this in terms of the software implementation rather than just the sensor itself,” Miyamoto told Mercury News. “I don’t have any indication for you (of what we have in the works) other than to say that we have lots of very creative ideas.”

Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera calls the sensor’s unveiling a misstep, because Nintendo failed to furnish any software that makes the hardware seem irresistible. I’ll take this a step further and say the Wii Vitality Sensor is headed towards Nintendo’s small but historically significant pile of video gaming vaporware.

The most notable of these half-baked failures is the Nintendo 64DD. This hardware expansion had considerable clout among my neighborhood friends, promising what seemed like infinite gaming muscle and endless possibilities. We read about it in Nintendo Power, waiting for a North American release that never came. Long after we had forgotten it, the Nintendo 64DD was released mainly as a subscription service in Japan, where it flopped.

There are other examples, like the Sony-developed SNES CD that ultimately evolved into the Playstation, along with “Project Atlantis,” a powerful successor to the Game Boy that was never officially confirmed, though it surfaced from obscurity this year. Though not exactly vaporware, there was also an unnamed, unexplained Nintendo handheld that was completed a few years ago and then scrapped.

It’s said that when Nintendo shelves an idea, the company tends to recycle it into future projects. This happened with a touch screen peripheral for the Game Boy Advance that eventually became the Nintendo DS, and I can see it happening again with the Wii Vitality Sensor. It’s not a flat-out bad idea, but it’ll have a tough time standing on its own. If we ever start hearing about the sensor in any significant detail, I’m guessing it will have already morphed into a different product altogether.


Nintendo Announces Wii Biofeedback Sensor

wii_vitality2At the Nokia Theater in downtown LA this morning, Nintendo’s E3 press briefing for its new lineup included the expected cast of characters for its Wii and DS platforms. Among the announced products were more than one new Mario game, a new Metroid game, and a new feature for the DS which allows you to edit photos and upload them directly to Facebook. But the most interesting — and least discussed — new announcement was about a hardware accessory for the Wii which provides the platform with the ability to literally take the pulse of the player, while playing.

As shown in these incredibly blurry photos taken at the event, the device that Nintendo execs are calling the Wii Vitality Sensor, looks like a small plastic sleeve into which you slip an index finger. A cable connects the Vitality Sensor to the Wiimote controller.

wii_vitality1The tease for the Vitality Sensor explained that it would give Wii developers the ability to design games that use this type of input—games which can read the player’s physical state in a way that no current-generation console can. In theory, said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, such an accessory could be used in, for example, a game designed to help the player relax and control his or her heart rate.

While this kind of biofeedback in games isn’t exactly new–especially so for Nintendo, which released a short-lived biofeedback sensor with a game for its Nintendo 64 platform years ago — the timing of the announcement is interesting, when you consider that the other two members of the console maker’s club are expected to announce point-at-the-screen game controllers like the Wii currently uses.

I don’t think Nintendo intends to recreate The Journey to Wild Divine for the Wii, but it isn’t hard to see how, combined with the Wii Fit controller, a heart rate monitor would make a pretty useful fitness gaming accessory. A number of developers have been working on games that use biofeedback to train players to relax. A version of something similar for the Wii — which has already brought huge numbers of casual gamers into the console market — would open up the market for so-called relaxation games to a much broader audience.