Sunday, August 30, 2009
Vitality Sensor IS The Future
This year, at Nintendo's E3 Press Event, the home and portable console manufacturer revealed their next step in video game control, the Wii Vitality Sensor. Many gamers groaned and moaned because they perceive this device to be one of two things, a cheap heart monitor for elderly gamers or the later, another peripheral that will be tossed at the casual gaming market. First off lets start off with what exactly the vitality sensor is. According to the wikipedia article the Vitality Sensor...
- is a fingertip pulse oximeter sensor that connects through the Wii Remote. According to Nintendo, the device "will initially sense the user's pulse and a number of other signals being transmitted by their bodies, and will then provide information to the users about the body’s inner world."
Now for some more technical jargon. According to the Wikipedia article, "a pulse oximeter is a medical device that indirectly measures the oxygen saturation of a patient's blood (as opposed to measuring oxygen saturation directly through a blood sample) and changes in blood volume in the skin, producing a photoplethysmograph. It is often attached to a medical monitor so staff can see a patient's oxygenation at all times.
You're probably asking, "what in the world does this have to do with games?" I'll explain. Because the body gives off a different blood volume reading with each emotion you "express", if a game is properly programmed, that game will be able to sense things like tension or fear. At first thought you would think that would be perfect for survival horror games but its has uses in other genres. Instead of having to create different difficulty levels, there can now be a program that eases things when you feel that "it's too much" or a bit too hard to want to play. The most important thing is, we're talking about Nintendo here and even, Nintendo of America's president Reggie Fils-Amie said that the vitality sensor can detect numerous things.
Here is where I believe that the vitality sensor is actually more important than what Nintendo will have you to believe. Because Vitality Sensor can measure the blood volume in your skin at different points in thinking, we could be at the very first steps of console games that are controlled with your thoughts. Don't believe me? Check out the following article...
- and this section as well, from the same source (PC World) that includes a picture as well as more information.
Article 2 (w/helmet picture)
As you can see, there are already headsets that allow for your brainwaves to be used for game control. They can even distinguish commands that you give out. Don' t think it's true? I have talked to someone who has had experience with a similar device and he described to me how you had to calibrate your thoughts with different actions to get things working as needed. Back to the Vitality Sensor. Imagine a game that begins the game tutorial like this...
Step A - The game will ask you to think about your character "walking" forward
Step B - You do the thinking and your body gives off a certain blood level that the vitality sensor will pick up.
Step C - The sensor then takes that level and assigns it to the "Walk Command"
- The game will then, ask you to think about walking right then left and then turning around basically following steps A through C replacing the "Walk Forward" command with the respective "Walk Right", "Walk Left" and "Turn Around" commands.
NOW do you all get it? While Sony and Microsoft are JUST stepping into the motion control arena, Nintendo is already thinking about the next level of game control. Add the new "mind control" mechanic with the already introduced motion controls of the Wii Remote, you now have something that is beyond anything that Project Natal or the PlayStation Wand Controllers can offer to the mass market. As for the look of Vitality Sensor, it's genius! You have mind control gaming in a small consumer friendly package compared to the helmet I showed to you in the above link.
While everybody is screaming about price drops, The Wii needing one and how they "analyze" that the motion options will put a damper in the Wii's sales, they tend to forget a lot of things. Firstly, the Wii audience is a totally different or new breed of gamer, depending on, if that person is casual or a long time Nintendo follower. Secondly the Wii is setup in a way that multiple play styles can be used adding to the ability to have fun in many different ways. That is something that simply can not be offered on the X-Box 360 or PlayStation 3. Finally, and this is a big one, the price points of Project Natal, the PS Wand controllers coupled the fact the audience for their respective consoles are not fans of motion controls may put a damper on Sony and Microsoft's plans. In conclusion, do not count the Vitality Sensor as another gimmick. If done the right way this may be the beginning of a new way to play video games.
For another look at the "mind control" headset technology, check out this link.
Quick Edit: My friend, the one spoken about earlier in this post was kind enough to send me the following footage of Intel's version of the headset technology. Enjoy!