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Wii accessibility

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Overcoming barriers to gaming accessibility!

Inaccessible Controller
Inaccessible Controller

As novel as the Wii controller interface is, it is not the first time that Nintendo has designed a controller that could be used by people in need of assistive technology. Nintendo first developed an adaptive controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988. This controller had a joystick that could be moved with the chin and a sip and puff setup that would control the A and B buttons as well as the select and start buttons. Nintendo has always wanted to make sure that its systems were available to everyone not just the able bodied.

Hands Free by Nintendo
Hands Free by Nintendo


Contents

About the Wii

The Nintendo Wii is the fifth home gaming system created by Nintendo. Its revolutionary controller style allows gamers to interact with the game in a way never seen before. The best explanation for the name of the system comes from a quote by the company:

"Wii sounds like 'we', which emphasizes that the console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii." [1]

With a mantra like that it is not surprising that the Wii is used in physical rehabilitation centers around the world. Because interaction with the software requires input through user movement it creates an environment that is fun yet physically challenging.


The Console

The Wii console is compact in size which makes it easy to pack up and transport to multiple locations. In order to put games onto the system the user must either download content from Nintendo using the built in wireless internet card, or insert a purchased game dvd into the front slot.

The Nintendo Wii console
The Nintendo Wii console

Standard Input Devices

There are a variety of input sources for the wii: the Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Balance Board, Wii Classic controller, and the Gamecube Controller.

The Wii Remote uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with the Wii console. The Wii Remote contains motion sensing technology including accelerometers that report movements to the Wii. The position of the Wii remote is sensed using an infrared camera which is housed in the Wii remote that picks up infrared light emitted by the sensor bar (which comes with the Wii). The motion data is then used by the software to respond to the participants actions.

The Nintendo Wii Remote
The Nintendo Wii Remote


The Nunchuk is an add on to the Wii Remote. The Nunchuk provides additional movement data to the Wii along with additional buttons. There is a wired and a wireless version of the Nunchuk. The wireless version of the Nunchuk is great for situations that a cord between the two controllers may get in the way.

The Nintendo Nunchuk
The Nintendo Nunchuk

The Wii Balance Board uses four force sensors to relay standing posture information to the Wii. This information can be used by software for the Wii to simulate many postures used in sports such as:skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, jogging, walking, boxing, and even driving.

The Nintendo Wii Balance Board
The Nintendo Wii Balance Board

The Wii Classic controller can be plugged into the Wii Remote to be used for playing classic Nintendo games. This controller is designed to function like typical gaming system input devices.

The Nintendo Wii Classic Controller
The Nintendo Wii Classic Controller

The Gamecube controller is used to provide input to the Wii for Gamecube games. The Gamecube was the home video game system created by Nintendo prior to the Wii. Because the Wii is backwards compatible with the Gamecube users can play their old games on the Wii system.

The Nintendo Gamecube Controller
The Nintendo Gamecube Controller

Modified Input Devices

In situations where the user is unable to move the Wii remote with their hand or push the buttons with their fingers it may be necessary to adapt the controller to their abilities. There are a few ways to adapt a Wii controller.

1. A simple way to modify the controller would be to use a strap to attach the remote to the users hand/wrist. The B button on the controller could be activated using wrist extension. This works for games that require only the use of the B button but games that require more buttons to be pushed would be very difficult to play without further adaptations.

Adapted Wii Remote strap made by a Wii user
Adapted Wii Remote strap made by a Wii user

2. To adapt the Wii to a patient without wrist extension or for someone that would require the need for more than just the B button it is necessary to purchase an adapted Wii remote. An adapted Wii remote uses connectors to place the buttons on the controller in more accessible positions such as: the other hand, a bump switch, eyebrow switch, a bite switch or even sip and puff ability. An adapted controller can be purchased at http://www.gimpgear.us/wiimote.htm#professional_wii_therapy_clinic_packages

Adapted Wii Remote by Gimp Gear
Adapted Wii Remote by Gimp Gear
Adapted Wii Remote by Gimp Gear
Adapted Wii Remote by Gimp Gear

3. Another approach to adapting the Wii remote is to integrate the controls into a hat. The controller is mounted on the brim of the hat. Head movements translate into movements of the Wii Remote. Buttons can be placed remotely either in a hand, as a bite switch, an eyebrow switch or a sip and puff switch.

Adapted Wii Remote hat by Gimp Gear
Adapted Wii Remote hat by Gimp Gear

4. If someone has the ability to modify their own Wii remote or knows someone that can do it for them. There is an Instuctables article that describes how to modify the Wii remote. This modification was developed in the CATEA lab here at Georgia Institute of Technology and shared with the public so that the controller could be made accessible to all not just the ones that could afford to pay for it. Here is the link: http://www.instructables.com/id/Wiimote-Modification-for-Persons-with-Disabilities/ For a manual with a parts list and instructions click here: http://www.mobilityrerc.gatech.edu/factsheets/Wiimote+Assembly+Instructions.pdf

5. The Wii Balance Board is designed to be placed on a flat surface and then stood upon, but the Wii doesn't have to know that someone is sitting instead of standing. A user with minimal lower extremity strength but some trunk strength and upper extremity strength could sit on the balance board and play a lot of the games using trunk leaning to interact with the Wii.

Sitting on the Wii Balance Board
Sitting on the Wii Balance Board

6. The Nunchuk attatchment is typically attached with a wired connection. It is possible to buy a wireless version that makes it a lot easier for users with impaired motor control to keep from damaging or tangling the wires in their chair.

Wireless Nunchuk
Wireless Nunchuk

Games that work with modified controllers

The following are lists of games that work with the above mentioned modified controllers. These games have been tested to work with varying levels of injury. For more information about using the Wii in rehab check out Wii_rehab_applications_(wiihab).

1. Forearm Strap: Wii Sports, Wii Play, Chicken Shoot, Carnival Games, Madden 09

2. Hat Mount: Wii sports (tennis would be difficult), Wii Play (cow racing may make you dizzy), Mario Kart

3. Adapted Wii remote: Mario Kart, Resident Evil, Sega Bass Fishing, Cabelas Big Game Hunter, Geometry Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, Super Mario Galaxy

4. Wireless Nunchuk: Any Boxing game

5. Sitting on the Balance Board: Rayman Raving Rabbids Party ( tractor racing), Wii Fit, Wii Ski

Using the Wii Remote to access a computer

It is possible to use the Wii Remote as an interface device with the computer. The Wii Remote would act like a computer mouse. Directions to make this modification can be found here: http://timbermheay.wordpress.com/2007/10/31/how-to-use-wii-controller-wiimote-as-mouse-in-windows/

Using the Wii Remote in windows would allow a person who normally might not be able to sit in front of a desk, to sit in their wheel chair and simply point at the screen and click the buttons on the Wii remote or use the adapted Wii Remote with some type of switch.


References

[1]"Breaking: Nintendo Announces New Revolution Name - 'Wii'". Gamasutra. CMP. http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=9075. Retrieved 09-26-2009. [2] http://www.gimpgear.us/wiimote.htm#professional_wii_therapy_clinic_packages Retrieved 10-09-2009 [3] http://timbermheay.wordpress.com/2007/10/31/how-to-use-wii-controller-wiimote-as-mouse-in-windows/ Retrieved 10-14-2009 [4] http://www.oneswitch.org.uk/ Retrieved 10-8-2009