Thinking OT

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Posts Tagged ‘WiiHab

Is The Wii Useful?

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There is an article in this month’s OT News magazine (click here) discussing a pilot scheme using the Nintendo Wii games console with individuals who have mild learning difficulties.

It is an interesting article even though the pilot scheme was unsuccessful.  There were only eight proposed members of the group, only six turned up and, of those, only one turned up regularly.

The experiences of the group, or rather those who were leading it, highlight some serious shortfalls in the Wii hardware.  These are not critical, I think, but do need to be recognised.

The Nintendo Wii has caused quite a stir with it’s motion sensitive controls.  Rather than pressing a button to control an on screen character, you physically move and manipulate a controller held in your hand.   Other developments include the Wii Fit board which measures weight, balance and shifts in balance.

There are several games including the ubiquitous Wii Sports which are designed to be played in a more physical fashion, even standing up and leaping around your immaculately tidy and hyper-lifestyle designed living room if the TV ads are to be believed.

This physicality has led to the Wii being applied in various settings to motivate individuals to become more active.

The current project though failed on a couple of fronts.

Users became frustrated with the time it took to swap between players using the Wii Fit program.  It is a time consuming task which entails clicking through several screens.  This can sometimes take longer than it takes to play the activity itself.

Wii Fit is largely an individual system, which may well be better suited to one on one sessions.  The sequel, Wii Fit Plus, has got usability improvements which remove some of the time taken to change between participants which might alleviate issues within group sessions.

The other problem which the Wii presents stems directly from the motion control technology.

The promise of direct control over your on-screen character is an abstracted illusion.

By this I mean that you do not, despite all the hype, have direct control over your character, but only elements of their actions.

Take the famous tennis game from Wii Sports, for example.  You cannot direct where you hit the ball by changing the angle of the controller, as you would with a tennis racquet.  The direction is, instead, determined by how early or late you strike the ball – early plays it to the left of the court, later to the right.

For those of us who game as a hobby this is not a problem, but non-experienced gamers will perceive that they are being offered direct control.  The result can be very frustrating.

Again, the Wii technology continues to evolve and you may well well want to look at the Wii Sports sequel called Wii Sports Resort.  This comes complete with a new widget to attach to the original controller which brings your physical actions closer to the on-screen representation.

A word of warning though;  Do not get started on the Table Tennis service return game.  It is incredibly, marriage threateningly, addictive!

Another problem is highlighted by the original article, namely frustration at a perception that “The machine is not working properly.”  The controls on the Wii, and especially the Wii Fit balance board, are incredibly sensitive and actually require quite a high degree of balance shifting, stability and control.  This can be underestimated.

The Wii should not be abandoned as a possible device for therapy or motivation activity.  Once its limitations are recognised, acknowledged and accommodated the Wii can be great fun, social and energetic.  This will require practitioners to become fully familiar with the system before introducing it to service users, but, hey, there are worse home work assignments.

Do be aware that Sony and Microsoft are both bringing out new motion sensing systems for their Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 which might provide a more seamless interface.

Also be sure to read this excellent blog, albeit not updated since March on WiiHabTherapy.

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