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Using the "Wiimote" Controller in Biomedical Research

Active Participant

The Nintendo Wii game system revolutionized the way that people interact with the on-screen action.  Playing a game with a conventional game controller is a thumb-intensive activity, maybe with a few choice gestures thrown in once in a while.  Playing a Wii game is a whole body experience - many games cannot even be played sitting down since the input required to get the desired outcome often requires a the player to mimic the dynamics of an actual "real" player - the swing of a golf club or tennis racquet, or the backswing and timed release of a bowling ball.

The key to this truly interactive experience is the "Wiimote" technology - a wireless, rugged handheld device the size of a slim TV remote control with sensitive and responsive accelerometers and IR sensing technology.  The device's low cost, availability, and use of the Bluetooth wireless protocol helped foster an active hacker community and wide variety of applications away from the Wii gaming console.  Of course, the LabVIEW community has been right there in the middle of this activity, finding cool ways to exploit the features of this input device - watch this video by one of our application engineers here in Austin:

The application of this device in biomedical engineering could include sports medicine and rehabilitation, biomechanics research including motion analysis, shock/injury research, behavioral and cognitive research, etc.  Of course, LabVIEW is an ideal environment to acquire the sensor data and do real-time processing, data logging, and even visualization or control.  All that is needed is some code to interface to the Bluetooth resources on the PC.  Fortunately, our own Sam Shearman has put together an application note to get you started: Clicky-clicky

Download the code and give it a try - we're anxious to hear how you could use this especially in biomedical teaching or research.

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We've been using Wiimotes to take biomedical data for a few semesters. We strap the Wiimotes to our heads (tres chic!) and walk around. We measure the accelerations due to things like plopping into a chair, bumping into a wall, etc. The bandwidth is fine. The resolution is not great, but it gives us an opportunity to talk about quantization error, etc.

Active Participant

Great to hear - are you using LabVIEW to collect/log the data?  Do you walk around with a laptop in a backpack?  What university/institution are you affiliate with?

I've also seen Wii Fit balance boards used as low-cost force plates for gait analysis...I wonder if the same driver works for this?  I've also thought it would be cool to align digital video with the data from a Wiimote - DIAdem is really good at this.

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I'm not sure if the balance board works with the driver. We've started toying with the Wii Motion Plus (angular rate sensor add-on to the Wiimote). It doesn't work perfectly, but with a little tweaking it can be made to work. I'd *guess* the balance board would be similar.

We're not really grabbing much data, just a few minutes' worth of X, Y and Z accelerations--that's done in LabVIEW with a VI written by us for the students. We extract out the interesting second or two with external software.

Since we're using the Bluetooth capabilities of the Wiimote, we can use desktop computers as long as we don't walk too far down the hall. We find we can move about 30 feet from the host computer before the connection drops. (And when it drops, it's gone for good and requires us to go through the initial connection process all over again.)

We often have a lab of eight independent Wiimotes running at the same time with no interference or reduction in bandwidth. Bluetooth is pretty cool.

Active Participant

Hi Matt - I thought that was you...didn't make the connection from your username. I'll let you know if I run into other application notes for the Motion Plus or balance board.

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